Here’s a line you won’t read often: National Journal reports that Republicans are upset with the oil and gas lobby. And here’s the context, which makes that line a little more sensible: In their estimation, the oil and gas lobby has been too nice to President Obama.
First, the president promised to take “every possible action” to promote safe natural gas development in his January State of the Union Address. Then, energy companies cooperated during and after the drafting of new administration rules for the controversial natural gas extraction method known as fracking. The Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency ended up writing rules that are demanding, but that present fewer obstacles to tapping America’s gas deposits than the industry might have expected. That is good for everyone, environmentalists included, since the country’s unconventional natural gas is a precious resource that could even help fight climate change. Fairly-regulated development of that resource — not shutting down extraction — should be the goal.
This episode, which marks a only small break in the tension between the industry and a White House it holds highly suspect, is also a welcome instance of cordial compromise in a town that more often runs on negative rhetoric and division. To an aide for Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), though, that was the problem. National Journal’s Amy Harder obtained a frustrated, 800-word e-mail the aide sent to industry lobbyists and other GOP congressional staffers, which included this line:
“Moving forward, we — your partners — would kindly ask for better coordination and communication from you to prevent the Obama administration from pulling similar stunts in the future.”
Other staffers felt the industry had “betrayed” them in its tone and willingness to work with the White House on natural gas.
No doubt, some of the sore feelings reflect suspicion that the president will crack down the minute he is re-elected, compounded by all the effort Republicans feel they have spent defending oil companies from the president’s criticism. Biggest among them: Obama’s campaign to end oil-firm tax breaks. Yet the most pain must come from how the industry is deflating a major GOP line of attack — that the president is disastrous beyond mitigation on energy.
While there is plenty of room to fairly criticize the president, Republicans have made such outrageous claims about Obama and energy this election year that even an occasional suggestion that he might have done something right is a serious blow to their representations. The natural gas episode is an example of why Mitt Romney’s oft-repeated claim that the president is treating America “like an energy-poor nation” doesn’t accord with the record. That’s true even if White House election-year political calculations have driven the moderate tendencies in that record.
The fault, Republicans, might not be in your “partner” lobbyists, but in yourselves.