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Congressman Rob Bishop

Representing the 1st District of Utah

Obama Keeps Jobs and Energy in West on Hold

November 5, 2009
Op-Ed and Speech
While the early pioneers traveled to the frontier for many different reasons, they were all drawn by the promise of opportunity and a better life in the West. These early pioneer families relied on the land and wealth of natural resources to start anew. Today, the same land and opportunities that brought good fortune to so many are the target of extreme special-interest groups imposing burdensome regulations to restrict reasonable access to our nation's abundant natural resources.

Not unlike early pioneer settlers, many Americans today are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, a sign that today's struggling economy and rising unemployment will actually improve sooner rather than later. As these families search for relief, the Obama Administration continues to emphasize politics over substance, and seems more intent on serving narrow special interests than in serving the interests of the American public. Hope for a better tomorrow hinges upon federal decision makers who, unbeknownst to many, are implementing new policies that will make life harder, not easier for millions across the country. Unfortunately, many of the decisions being made will have disproportionate impacts on the descendants of those who came to the West many years ago.

The Obama Administration continues to play politics with our energy future. Evidence of this fact is the recent cancellation of 77 oil and gas leases in Utah, delayed access to the Outer Continental Shelf, blocked mineral leases, new restrictive oil shale mandates and the consideration of costly taxes on U.S. energy producers and consumers.

Today, nearly 60% of the energy consumed in the U.S. is imported from foreign and often unstable countries. This is unnecessary with the abundance of untapped domestic resources within the borders of this country. Our inability to access these resources is largely the result of actions taken by the federal government and federal agencies that are not in our best interests, but rather those of extreme special-interest groups. These actions continue to devastate Western states whose industries rely upon access to both public and private lands.

While the Environmental Protection Agency would have you believe that accessing our natural resources is irresponsible and has negative effects on the environment, in reality, this couldn't be further from the truth. Under the guise of environmental protection, radical special-interest groups have set out to limit access to public lands and public land users.

Despite the growing demand for access to these lands and their abundant energy resources, special-interest groups with the help of the EPA and other federal agencies are determined to keep them under lock and key. For example, designating large swaths of land as wilderness, the most restrictive of all land designations, millions of acres of land that would otherwise provide an abundance of jobs sit vacant. Just last month, out-of-state Democrats looking to bolster their environmental scorecard introduced legislation that would designate nearly nine million acres of land in Utah as wilderness. There are only 10 million acres of private land in the entire state. Not a single member of the bipartisan Utah delegation supported this initiative, which ignored the long-term devastation such policies would have on the state of Utah.

In Colorado and parts of Utah, abundant oil shale resources remain untapped and, if Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar has it his way, they will likely remain that way for years to come. Just this month, Secretary Salazar announced new restrictive regulations on the development of oil shale resources.

While he neatly packaged these new mandates as "new opportunities," industries immediately recognized the inevitable consequences that will come from this added regulatory burden.

As a Westerner, Secretary Salazar should be familiar with the long-term benefits, wealth, and potential of America's vast oil shale reserves. Most Westerners will recognize that it isn't the cowboy hat and boots that give credentials, but instead one's commitment to uphold the traditions and heritage that built the land.

Instead of focusing on special-interest solutions emanating from Washington, we should look to the hard-working American people for solutions to our nation's energy and jobs crises. It is the American people, not government bureaucrats, who will develop new and innovative energy technologies. From the Silicon Valley to Manhattan, emerging technologies are revitalizing energy production. However, these new technologies are worthless without the ability to access our abundant domestic resources.

As we stand at the crossroads of what seems to be a future of bleak job creation, leaders in Washington are looking to implement costly and destructive policies that hinder, not help in economic and job recovery. The same lands that once brought good fortune and prosperity to early pioneer families can provide that same relief once again in the form of new jobs and greater energy independence. However, this will only be possible if federal bureaucrats and special-interest groups get out of the way and allow American ingenuity to flourish.