By a narrow margin, voters Tuesday elected President Obama to a second term in office, but with Congress still split — a majority Republican House and a majority Democratic Senate — the passage of significant legislation relating to the energy industry or anything else remains problematic.
In a victory speech in Chicago early Wednesday morning, Obama said he would reach out and work “with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system [and] freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”
Obama captured 303 electoral votes to Republican Mitt Romney’s 206, with Florida still undecided Wednesday afternoon, and the Democratic incumbent had 50% of the popular vote to Romney’s 48%. Obama said he looked forward “to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”
The two presidential candidates had clashed over energy issues during the campaign season. While both said they would promote an “all of the above” energy strategy, Romney said Obama’s plan favored renewables and Obama said the challenger’s plan focused solely on oil and gas (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24; Aug. 24).
In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination in September, Obama said Democrats were offering the nation a “better path” on energy — one that would continue to focus on renewable energy, develop abundant natural gas supplies, give producers more access for domestic onshore oil and gas exploration, reduce foreign oil imports and cut carbon pollution (see Shale Daily, Sept. 10). At the same time, he said he would “not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastline, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.”
In the days leading up to the presidential election, one poll found that more voters preferred the energy policies espoused by Obama than Romney.
Natural gas was the one fossil fuel that found favor with Democrats. “We will continue to advocate for the use of this clean fossil fuel [gas], while ensuring that public and environmental health and workers’ safety are protected,” the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said in its platform on energy (see Shale Daily, Sept. 5). It further stated that “we support more infrastructure investment to speed the transition to cleaner fuels in the transportation sector. And we are expediting the approval process to build out critical oil and gas lines essential to transporting our energy for consumers.” But “harnessing our natural gas resources needs to be done in a safe and responsible manner,” the DNC said.
“The natural gas pipeline industry looks forward to working with President Obama and the new Congress to ensure that legislation and regulation does not hinder the development of natural gas and the pipeline infrastructure needed to transport this abundant, clean-burning domestic fuel,” said Don Santa, CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. “We appreciate President Obama’s repeated statements about the benefits of natural gas to the nation’s economy and consumers.”
American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said energy was “a big winner in this election,” and offered Obama advice on the legislative agenda for his second term.
“Right off the bat, the president can approve the Keystone Pipeline and put thousands of Americans to work immediately. He can acknowledge the effective role states are already playing in regulating oil and natural gas production and avoid the temptation to impose duplicative and unnecessary regulations on hydraulic fracturing. By following through on his own executive order to eliminate overly burdensome regulations, he can rein in EPA’s [Environmental Protection Agency] plans to impose regulatory burdens that could cost businesses hundreds of billions of dollars and chill economic growth.
“The domestic energy from shale boom is just beginning. We have an unprecedented opportunity to work together to create millions of new jobs, generate hundreds of billions of dollars for our government, and strengthen our energy and national security. With the right public policies, this could be a game changer for America.”
Obama’s reelection “brings more good news than bad” to the natural gas industry, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection John Hanger wrote in a column published Wednesday by Business Insider. Obama’s policies will result in increased demand for natural gas, “and right now the most pressing need for the gas industry is to sell more product,” Hanger wrote. But the industry will be in a fight with Obama over tax policy, he said.
“Tax breaks for the oil and gas industry will be under siege, pressured by a President who ran against them and by the fiscal condition of the nation.”
Virginia Lazenby, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said members had “serious concerns” about energy policies the Obama administration implemented in its first four years.
“America’s independent oil and natural gas companies have spearheaded a true energy revolution, causing U.S. manufacturing to return to the mainland and creating much-need jobs for the middle class,” Lazenby said. “This is all possible because of the sophisticated, safe technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, which have unlocked vast reserves of energy previously trapped in shale. Right now, more than twelve federal agencies seek to regulate oil and natural gas development, a jurisdiction that the states have historically and successfully regulated. One-size-fits-all regulations from Washington that duplicate what regulators are doing at the state level threaten new supplies of energy and make it next to impossible for independents to operate on federal lands, both onshore and offshore.”
American Gas Association CEO Dave McCurdy struck a more upbeat tone following the election.
“It is only through smart, efficient policies and coordination with policymakers at all levels that we will be able to meet our nation’s energy goals, and there is no doubt natural gas has a significant role in our energy future. The President has advanced policies to help realize the realities of what this domestic fuel can do for our nation, but there is still significant room for greater use of natural gas to help meet our nation’s energy goals,” McCurdy said.
Likewise, Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said she looked forward to working with Obama and newly elected members of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly on issues related to natural gas. “Natural gas is revitalizing our nation’s manufacturing base and giving our nation a more competitive position in the global economy, and as President Obama has said, ‘We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years,'” she said.
Enbridge Inc. CEO Al Monaco said he doesn’t think the second Obama administration will bring much change to the U.S.-Canada energy relationship.
“The reason for that is if you look at the fundamentals in the U.S. and Canadian market for crude oil, we’re seeing a huge expansion in the volume that’s coming forth in new production and so forth. So I think it’s in everybody’s interest to get new infrastructure built,” Monaco said during a conference call Wednesday. “And I think that’s been the Obama administration’s view to this point. And I think we’ll see that going forward.”
In his victory speech Wednesday, Obama said he wants a country “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” Retiring Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) recently said he plans to introduce climate change legislation when Congress returns after the elections. House lawmakers stepped up their calls for Congress to take action on climate change following Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the Northeast coast last month, knocking out power and gas service to thousands.
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