Obama's jobs council report says 'drill'

President Obama’s jobs council called Tuesday for an “all-in approach” to energy policy that includes expanded oil-and-gas drilling as well as expediting energy projects like pipelines.

“[W]e should allow more access to oil, natural gas and coal opportunities on federal lands,” states the year-end report released Tuesday by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

ADVERTISEMENT
The report does not specifically mention the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but it endorses moving forward quickly with projects that “deliver electricity and fuel,” including pipelines.

“The Council recognizes the important safety and environmental concerns surrounding these types of projects, but now more than ever, the jobs and economic and energy security benefits of these energy projects require us to tackle the issues head-on and to expeditiously, though cautiously, move forward on projects that can support hundreds of thousands of jobs,” the report says.

The report retreats slightly from an interim report released in October that addressed the Keystone XL pipeline directly. The interim report appeared to offer cautious support for Keystone, calling on officials to “balance” environmental protections while realizing what it called the benefits of the pipeline.

But Keystone supporters will point out that the year-end report released Tuesday argues that energy projects like pipelines will result in economic and security benefits. It even echoes a common refrain from Republicans and the oil industry: that such energy projects "can support hundreds of thousands of jobs."

White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Tuesday that the jobs council report does not endorse the Keystone pipeline.

"Well, first of all, the Jobs Council wasn't talking about Keystone specifically," Carney said at his daily briefing. "The Jobs Council was talking about the importance of expanding domestic oil and gas production, a goal this president shares and has expounded upon at length, and has taken action as a policy matter to demonstrate his commitment to."

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

“The Council recognizes that providing access to more areas for drilling, mining and renewable energy development is controversial, but, given the current economic situation, we believe it’s necessary to tap America’s assets in a safe and responsible manner,” the report says.

“Additionally, policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects are necessary to facilitate the delivery of America’s fuel and electricity and maintain the reliability of our nation’s energy system.”

Stakeholders should work together to develop “best practices” aimed at ensuring safety, while also expediting energy projects, according to the report.

“[R]egulatory and permitting obstacles that could threaten the development of some energy projects negatively impact jobs and weaken our energy infrastructure need to be addressed,” the report says. “Speedy adoption of best practice standards would allow government officials to reduce regulatory and permitting obstacles to important energy projects.”

Under a payroll tax cut packaged signed into law in December, the president must make a decision on the pipeline by Feb. 21. White House and administration officials have said they will have little choice but to reject the pipeline under the deadline, arguing they will not have enough time to adequately review the project.

The looming deadline has set off an aggressive lobbying campaign. Republicans and industry officials argue that the project has been subject to sufficient review and is essential for boosting the ailing economy and creating jobs.

But environmental groups and other opponents of the pipeline have raised concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production, as well as potential oil spills.

House Republicans quickly pounced on the jobs council report Tuesday, noting that the recommendations echo their "all-of-the-above" energy strategy.

"The President’s Jobs Council today confirmed what House Republicans have known all along, that American energy production will spur job creation and strengthen our national security," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it appears President Obama is ignoring his Council’s recommendations, much as he has ignored the views of House Republicans on energy production, economic growth and job creation."

More broadly, the jobs report calls for expanded oil-and-gas drilling, as well as “safe and responsible” natural-gas extraction from shale formations.

The report notes that the Obama administration has called for new lease sales and said it will consider opening up new areas to drilling. But it says “further expanding and expediting the domestic production of fossil fuels both offshore and onshore (in conjunction with more electric and natural gas vehicles) will reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil and the huge outflow of U.S. dollars this reliance entails.”

Beyond oil and gas, the report calls for policies that improve energy efficiency, encourage private investment in energy research and development and expand renewable energy.