Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Written by Don Briggs

Riding populist sentiment, the president is using the Horizon disaster to breathe new life into job killing cap and trade — and contradicting himself yet again.

What do cap and trade and the Gulf Coast oil spill have to do with each other? For those who use logic and reason, there’s no correlation between the two. For President Obama, the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico serves as an opportunity to revitalize his once stagnant initiative for broad and sweeping climate-change legislation.

The job-killing cap and trade bill introduced last year in the U.S. House by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., was as good as dead. Their legislative initiative, the “American Clean Energy Act,” would have imposed nearly $644 billion in new taxes on the coal and oil and gas industries to generate revenues and subsidize alternative sources of energy. In the midst of one of the worst financial crises in recent times and the systematic overhaul of our health care system, passing legislation that would result in massive job losses and significant increases in energy costs for all Americans seemed untimely for the president and congressional Democrats.

After extensive debate and exposure to the facts, the American public made it clear that climate legislation was not the “change” they were seeking. Similar legislation enacted in other parts of the world has served as tangible evidence of the failures of this backward thinking. Take for instance the effect cap and trade has had on the Spanish economy. For every green job created in Spain, nearly 2.2 jobs were destroyed, and each job cost taxpayers nearly $774,000.

Given that Americans were exposed to its failures, a new approach was needed to sell us on climate legislation. Now, in the wake of the tragic sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico, the president and members of Congress are riding populist sentiment and bringing the cap and trade initiative back to the forefront of the political discussion in Washington.

On June 15, 2010, President Obama addressed the nation in what was thought to be a report on the Gulf Coast spill. What his speech ended up becoming was an ardent plea to end America’s addiction to fossil fuels and a repositioning on cap and trade as a solution to the oil spill. He stated, “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” After his speech concluded, it was clear that the president intended on exploiting this tragedy to push his radical agenda.

For all Americans, the incident in the Gulf is certainly a tragedy. With that in mind, it’s imperative that we do not allow our emotions to dictate our policy decisions. This is exactly what they want us to do. As we all remember, in response to the initial stages of the financial crisis, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste — and what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” During his presidential bid, Obama openly stated that he would use his cap and trade initiative to bankrupt the coal industry, and there is no doubt that he would do the same to the oil industry, if given the opportunity. The oil spill has become their crisis of opportunity.

In 2008, candidate Obama made it clear that when he became president, he intended to keep in place the moratorium that prevents oil companies from drilling off U.S. coasts. “When I am president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off our coasts,” he said while on the campaign trail. Completely contradicting his campaign promise, the president addressed the nation on March of this year and reversed his position on offshore drilling. Obama justified his decision to open up drilling off the coast of Virginia and expanding in the Gulf of Mexico by stating, “Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable home-grown energy.” This is just one of many contradictory policy decisions the president and this administration have made since reaching the Oval Office. Whichever way the populist winds blow, so go their policy decisions.

Less than a month after the president’s decision to open up drilling off our coasts, the administration responds to the Gulf incident by triggering a six-month moratorium to shut down all future deepwater offshore drilling. This decision will negatively impact nearly 100,000 direct and indirect jobs sustained by our state’s offshore oil and gas operations. On top of destroying our Gulf Coast operations, the president’s next step is to destroy energy jobs across the entire country with cap and trade.

Climate legislation will do nothing to stop the oil leak or mitigate the damage that has been caused in the Gulf Coast region. As Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said in response to the president’s speech, “Here we have the most significant environmental disaster in our nation’s history, and the president decides now is the time for cap and trade, a massive new energy tax, paid for by consumers, working families, farmers and small businesses.”

In my opinion, any policy that stands to tax the energy industry will do nothing to limit global warming, and will do more to increase the size and scope of government.

It’s time for the president and members of Congress to start legislating with their heads and not their emotions. Let’s put politics aside and not allow an isolated accident to dictate our future economic stability.  

Don Briggs lives in Lafayette and has been president of the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association since 1992. To comment on this column, email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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