Executive Order on Domestic Energy
On Friday, Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a press release on this Presidential Executive Order:
“Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources“
– President Barack Obama, Executive Order #13604, 4/13/2012
With a fragile economy struggling to recover and high gas prices, energy policy has suddenly assumed a central role in campaign 2012.
What is in the order? What does it say? What does it mean for the future of U.S. energy policy?
In this 2nd article in the series I’ll examine what the executive order says and, more importantly, what it does NOT say.
What’s the purpose of Presidential Executive Order #13604?
This order is specifically limited to domestic production of “unconventional” natural gas resources.
According to the presidential order it is “to help reduce our dependence on oil” and establishes:
a high-level, interagency working group that will facilitate coordinated Administration policy efforts to support safe and responsible unconventional domestic natural gas development
The order also describes these general goals:
setting sensible, cost-effective public health and environmental standards to implement Federal law and augment State safeguards…
with appropriate safeguards, natural gas can provide a cleaner source of energy than other fossil fuels…
While natural gas production is carried out by private firms, and States are the primary regulators of onshore oil and gas activities, the Federal Government has an important role to play by regulating oil and gas activities on public and Indian trust lands
The executive order has these properties:
- Limited to “unconventional” natural gas production
- Pertains primarily to public and Indian trust lands
- Does not override private land use or state regulatory authority
- Targets reducing use of “other fossil fuels” (Oil)
Executive Order Details
The “Interagency Working Group” will be chaired by President Obama’s top White House energy policy adviser, Heather Zichal, and will be made up of these departments and agencies:
- Department of Defense
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Energy
- Department of Homeland Security
- the Environmental Protection Agency
- Department of Environmental Quality
- the Office of Science and Technology Policy
- the Office of Management and Budget
- the National Economic Council
- such other agencies or offices the Chair (Zichal) may invite to participate
Along with Chairperson Zichal, each participating entity in the working group will have one deputy level representative.
Interagency Working Group Functions
The working group shall support the safe and responsible production of domestic unconventional natural gas by performing the following functions:
- Coordinate agency policy activities
- Coordinate sharing of scientific, environmental and related technical and economic information
- Engage in long-term planning
- Promote interagency communication with stakeholders
- Consult with other agencies as appropriate
This sounds like standard government regulatory authority targeting health and safety concerns.
This would be end-of-story if not for the things left unmentioned from the presidential executive order.
Omitted from the Executive Order
Two words standing out like bulging eyeballs by their absence from the official executive order. They are “Oil” and “Fracking“.
The phrase “dependence on oil” is used, but oil production is ignored. The use of oil (“other fossil fuels”) is discouraged.
Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. That is a new technique used by oil and gas developers that will open access to vast amounts of previously inaccessible North American natural gas and oil deposits.
These new resources could supply the United States from 50-100 years more worth of oil and gas. It can eliminate U.S. dependence on middle eastern and other hostile foreign oil sources.
“Unconventional” is a euphemism for fracking. Fracking is what made the Keystone XL oil pipeline controversy possible.
Lastly, omitted from the executive order is mention of another very special three Agency cooperative also announced on the same day.
That new group is called the “Multi-Agency Collaboration on Unconventional Oil and Gas Research“. Its the important group.
The mention of the word “fracking” strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of all environmentalists. It involves injecting water or chemicals deep underground to extract natural gas from rock and oil from tar sands.
There are legitimate health and safety concerns over the use of fracking. It can and should be researched and monitored closely. That is a government responsibility.
Fracking and reducing oil usage is what Friday’s Presidential Executive Order is all about.
On the economic side, fracking on private lands in the United States is responsible for the increase in U.S. oil and gas production since President Obama assumed office. Government energy policy or opening more federal land to development is not.
Fracking on private lands is what has made North Dakota and Wyoming economic boom states in a dismal economy.
It all boils down into a clash of Titans between environmentalists, economic prosperity and national security through energy independence.
Behind Friday’s executive order, though, is President Obama’s energy policy framework called the “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” and the formation of that very special unnamed three Agency cooperative.
In order to fully understand President Obama’s energy policy those things must be examined further.