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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

Economic consequences

Q: After a week in which the Obama Administration announced several major decisions -- opening new areas to offshore drilling, spelling out the details of tougher fuel-efficiency standards, and clamping down on "mountaintop" coal mining -- do you think the White House is on the right track on environmental matters?

This is not so much a question of right track or wrong track as it is a question of timing and perspective. At a time when the economy is struggling to recover from the worst recession in at least three decades, the last thing that is needed is imposing higher costs on businesses and consumers and creating greater uncertainty on the part of the private sector. Since actions have consequences, the important question is do these decisions create greater confidence or less? It is business confidence and consumer confidence that will lead to a sound economic recovery.

These three decisions and others by the Obama Administration, which do not involve the environment, are causing companies to be much more cautious in their hiring and capital investment decisions. Uncertainty is the business climate is the last thing that we need right now. The private sector is the engine of economic growth and rather than being encouraged to take actions that will lead to job growth and increased production, it is being hampered and demonized. The net result is a discouraging business and investment climate. Consumers are reducing debt and saving more which is generally a good thing but under prevailing circumstances they also have little reason to increase their consumption.

The over arching message from these three decisions is that consumers will face higher prices because electricity prices will be higher, light duty vehicles will be more expensive, and crude oil will be more expensive than it otherwise would be. That is not a way to encourage consumer optimism which is essential if the economy is to experience a good recovery.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems more interested in expanding the role of the federal government in controlling and directing economic activity than in promoting strong economic growth. Increased government spending may satisfy the governing elites but it will not lead to levels of growth that citizens expect.

The decision on mountain top mining will adversely impact one of the poorest regions in the nation and raising the price of light duty vehicles will delay restoring good paying jobs in the auto industry. The delay in leasing offshore tracks in the Atlantic also delays the creation of high paying jobs associated with exploration and production. So, the bottom line is that these decisions do nothing to stimulate job creation.

Rightly or wrongly, this Administration is creating the impression that it is pursuing an environmental agenda at the expense of struggling families and workers.

By William O'Keefe  |  April 7, 2010; 2:36 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Pursuing an environmental agenda at the expense of struggling families and workers" is an oxymoron. All families, struggling or not, deserve to live on a clean planet with clean air and water. How can anyone actually suggest that having MONEY is more important than having a livable planet? Our values seem pretty backward. Glad to see that the administration is at least "giving the impression" that it cares. That's a very small step in the right direction.

Posted by: buffaloclinton | April 11, 2010 1:08 PM
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While this article does make sense from an economic perspective, having an "economic perspective" is what got us into this mess to start with. Taking care of our planet is vastly more important than having a strong economy. Your last statement of "pursuing an environmental agenda at the expense of struggling families and workers" is ironic to me. Those struggling families and workers deserve to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and grow nourishing food to eat.

Posted by: buffaloclinton | April 11, 2010 12:57 PM
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