When politicians want to look busy while avoiding tough decisions during an election year, what do they do? They form commissions and councils.
And when President Barack Obama saw Americans struggling with highergasoline and home energy prices, did he encourage more domestic oilexploration, off-shore drilling, or coal production, while loweringtaxes on energy? Of course not.
After all, with political observersexpecting a close presidential race this year, Obama needs thefinancial and institutional support of far-left environmental groups. Theresult has been the President anointing certain energy sources — suchas wind and natural gas — as energies of the future, whileimplementing regulatory hurdles for more dependable fuels like oil andcoal.
Over the last decade, natural gas has exploded as an important energysource in the United States, accounting for almost one quarter of allenergy consumed. Natural gas has boosted economic activity in stateslike Ohio, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, and until recently, it has doneso largely without the benefit of preferential treatment from thefederal government.
But to expedite this natural gas boom, President Obama recentlydecided to form an interagency natural gas council run by Cecilia Muñoz, a former community organizer with La Raza and White Housebureaucrat with deep ties to George Soros, the billionaire investorwho made his fortune in currency trading throughout the world whilebankrolling liberal political efforts. Muñoz formerly led the OpenSociety Institute and the Center for Community Change, twoorganizations which are directly connected to Soros, MoveOn.org,ACORN, and other fringe groups with a long record of opposing thedevelopment of America’s oil and coal resources.
If having a new council run by the far left was not enough, PresidentObama continues to support major Democratic donors such as Soros bypicking winners and losers in the energy industry. One example of this government intervention is a package of risky subsidies inside a bill known as the NAT GAS Act. This legislation attempts toartificially encourage a transition to more natural gas usage byoffering tax credits for natural gas vehicles, fueling stations, andstorage facilities. As we all saw with the collapse of inefficientcompanies like Solyndra, when private investors are not willing tofund a new project, politically connected firms try to force taxpayersto fund their schemes.
But if natural gas is an already cheap and abundant source of energy,why would we subsidize it?
The answer may be that the Soros Fund Management, which isSoros’ investment vehicle, owns more than $90 million of shares in aVancouver, British Columbia company which produces the same naturalgas-powered engines which the act would encourage the use of. Soroshas personally donated $5,000 to the act’s co-sponsor, Rep. Nita Loweyof New York, and his family donated $121,000 to the DemocraticSenatorial Campaign Committee, while the lead sponsor of the act,Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, was chairman. This is in additionto the countless (and often untraceable) millions of dollars Sorospours into Democratic campaigns through the activities of hisnon-profit organizations and political committees.
Natural gas is a valuable and commonly used fuel. But it is not asilver bullet to our nation’s massive energy conundrum. And just likewind, solar, and nuclear, it should be left to succeed or fail basedon private market forces. Government should not have the legalauthority to hand your hard-earned dollars over to a private industry just because a handful of politicians think they have the right tomake decisions about what energy consumers use.
We have seen the costly errors of government manipulating energymarkets, and Obama must not allow wealthy activists to profit at theexpense of taxpayers. Conservatives should oppose the NAT GAS Act andother measures that give one specific fuel a distinct marketplaceadvantage over others.
Ken Blackwell is a member the board of directors of, both, the Club for Growth andthe NationalTaxpayers Union. He is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.