Uncertainty principle

As expected, the congressional field hearing organized this week by Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton and Rep. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania, highlighted problems the conventional energy industry faces from government regulations.

But the old-guard energy officials weren’t alone. They were joined at the witness table by Jennifer Bredt, with RES Americas of Broomfield, a wind-energy company.

Bredt said the threat from proposed regulations, and questions about how they will affect wind-energy projects, is hamstringing the wind-energy industry. “The number one obstacle our industry faces is uncertainty,” she said.

How true, for businesses of all sorts. Although existing rules may create obstacles, in most cases, companies can plan to cope with them. But they can’t plan in the context of an ever-shifting regulatory environment. That makes it hard to justify investing in one’s own operation, to secure financing or hire employees.

Other parts of the energy industry face similar difficulties, as representatives of the oil and gas industry, coal companies and uranium firms told the congressmen Tuesday. Policy changes, new regulations and the possibility of more rules from the likes of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and others create roadblocks to energy development.

That doesn’t mean there should be no rules to protect the environment and public health when energy resources are developed. But when every Congress and every administration changes the rules for developing these resources, it makes it difficult to effectively plan energy development — even for green energy.

A number of people have criticized Republican Tipton for hosting hearings they see as little more than a forum for his friends in the oil and gas industry to complain about the government. In fact, the hearing was a valuable forum to show that government regulations and uncertainty about them aren’t just restricting oil and gas development. They are stalling the very industries that Democrats and many environmentalists profess to support.

Not so long ago, President Barack Obama declared his intent to cut red tape and regulation to help businesses create jobs. This week’s Tipton-Critz hearing suggests there is ample opportunity to do so with all manner of energy projects.


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