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Barry Smitherman, head of the powerful Texas Railroad Commission, is making waves for his comments about economic collapse, energy policy and the future.
But don’t a lot of officials address those same issues?
Yes, but not the same way Smitherman does.
He talks about economic collapse as what will happen to the rest of the United States, not Texas. And he talks about energy policy as a way to make sure Texas commerce will continue, without the rest of the United States. And when he talks about the future, he focuses on Texas, because he believes there might not be the rest of the United States.
See a pattern?
“One of the things I’ve focused on in the last 10 years of my public sector life is preparing Texas to be a prosperous and safe place to work, regardless of what happens outside our borders,” he said.
“We are uniquely situated because we have energy resources, fossil and otherwise, and our own independent electrical grid. Generally speaking, we have made great progress in becoming an independent nation, an ‘island nation’ if you will, and I think we want to continue down that path so that if the rest of the country falls apart, Texas can operate as a stand-alone entity with energy, food, water and roads as if we were a closed-loop system.”
Smitherman said he feels Texas officials must do what they can to prepare the state.
“This was one of my goals at the Utility Commission and it is one my goals currently as chairman of the Railroad Commission. That’s why I stress so vehemently oil and gas production, permitting turnaround times, and everything that enables the industry to produce as much as it can, as quickly as it can,” he said.
In the last year, big names in energy began moving their headquarters to Texas, quietly and without fanfare, including credit affiliates long based in New York. Some have speculated that a coming economic crisis has precipitated the move, and that these companies must have assurances from Texas.
Smitherman does not believe this relocation is accidental.
When asked about the energy climate, possible energy independence, and the place of Texas in the energy landscape of the future, Smitherman remarked, “Today we are producing over 1.7 million barrels of oil per day, number one in the country by a wide margin. These numbers put us in league with many OPEC nations. We are a bigger contributor to the country than Saudi Arabia. We have about a third of all the natural gas production in the nation, and these numbers are going vertical.”
Smitherman has been credited with keeping the EPA’s influence nominal in Texas and stopping attempts by the Obama administration to ban hydraulic fracturing, colloquially referred to as “fracking,” which has demonstrably resulted in an unprecedented energy boom in Texas – recently causing Saudi Arabia to express public concern.
On the Obama administration’s exercise of power and what Smitherman calls an “assault” on the U.S. Constitution, he had the following comments:
“We’ve been very strong in leading the charge against the Obama administration. Our challenge against the Obama administration’s EPA air pollution regulation which attempted to shut down our coal plants before their life ended naturally, is a great example of taking them to task. We won at the U.S. Court of Appeals of D.C. The ruling said that the EPA air pollution rule was not grounded in science and was arbitrary and capricious.”
He continued, “It’s laborious, but when we take them on, we have a fair chance of winning. We don’t take these regulations seriously.”
Smitherman also recounted the “endangerment finding” from the EPA that attempted to implement cap and trade legislation via regulation. The case was appealed by Texas and is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
Cap and trade is estimated to potentially cost million jobs, reduce U.S. GDP by $9 trillion and is projected to increase the energy costs per U.S. household by $1,200 per year.
In the course of his remarks to WND, Smitherman commented on the unique legal difference in Texas covering exploitation of resources under the ground.
“Our established body of law here is that the mineral interest owner has priority over the surface interest owner,” explained Smitherman, adding that, “the state of Texas has very little land owned by the federal government. Because we are a private land ownership state, private land owners and mineral owners are incentivized to recover and allow drilling on their property. The federal government, for whatever reason, makes it difficult to recover oil on federal land.”
Permits in Texas take weeks to process, not years, as with the federal government, according to Smitherman. The second presidential debate of 2012 saw candidate Mitt Romney challenge Obama’s claim that permit approval had been cut in half under his first term. Obama denied permit reduction repeatedly and then later admitted that the claim was accurate.
In 2008, Obama promised to "bankrupt" the coal industry, which supports over 80,000 jobs:
"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted," he threatened.
During his 2008 campaign, Obama also remarked, "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."
After the BP oil spill, when all offshore rigs passed new inspections, the Obama administration implemented a "drilling moratorium," which reportedly threatened 20,000 jobs in Louisiana alone. Three versions were re-instituted, after federal courts ruled each moratorium illegal, and ordered permits to be granted. Permits were later granted after long delays.
Smitherman is running to succeed Attorney General Greg Abbott, who many believe gave Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, his start in politics by appointing him as solicitor general. Cruz and Abbott argued several landmark cases together before the Supreme Court, including a case challenging the intrusion of the World Court into a state murder conviction, and a case protecting the Ten Commandments display on Texas capitol grounds.
Speaking about his campaign for attorney general, Smitherman contrasted himself from other candidates, saying,
"I know my chief competitors. There is a difference between having a conservative legislative record and having a record of conservative leadership. I have led two big state agencies – the Public Utilities Commission and the Railroad Commission as well as roles in the private sector – and these have prepared me to now lead the attorney general's office, which has over 4,000 employees.