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There's little question that the whole of America has suffered in the last four years at the hands of the President's one-track energy policies. While Mitt Romney has laid out a plan for American energy independence by the year 2020, the Obama energy policy seems to be shackled by tunnel vision, focused solely on the massive outpouring of taxpayer resources to unproven alternative energy companies.
The sting of such failed initiatives has been particularly painful for Virginians who have battled numerous cost-rising hurdles during this time.
Let's examine four major hurdles facing energy consumers in the Commonwealth...
1) Rising Gas Prices
Virginia, much like the rest of the country has seen a steep rise in gasoline prices which cut deeply into family budgets. Historically, consumers can look forward to a precipitous drop in gasoline prices leading up to an election, but not this cycle. In fact, one AAA spokesman claimed that they've "never seen gas prices this radioactive in any national election year" dating back to the 1980s.
The cost of gasoline has gone up every day for the last five weeks, and is not expected to drop despite the pending election. In Virginia, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline sits currently at $3.61, below the national average of $3.78, but still a significant increase since Obama took office.
U.S. Senate candidate George Allen explains that families, small business owners, and farmers "are trying to figure out how to pay these astronomical gasoline and diesel prices."
"They understand how energy prices touch every aspect of our economy,” he added.
2) Off-Shore Drilling
Could the solution to Virginia's energy problems lie beneath the sea?
This past summer, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a bill that would implement the President's energy-restricting and job-limiting offshore drilling plan, and instead replaced it with a plan that would open up lease sales to areas rich in oil and natural gas.
Implementation of such a plan is necessary to combat the administration's long-standing policy of declining offshore drilling expansion, a form of energy that would create jobs and drive energy costs down nationwide.
The plan will speed up the approval process for lease sale number 220, a 2.9 million acre tract that holds an estimated 130 million barrels of oil and 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. All told, federal estimates of the potential resources lurking off Virginia's coast could include 750 million barrels of oil, and 6.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas ... or more.
With numbers like that, it is little wonder why opposition to the President's offshore drilling plan, and support of a more beneficial plan has received bipartisan support.
3) War on Coal
In 2008, Barack Obama famously made this declaration of war against the coal industry:
"If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it's just that it will bankrupt them."
True to his word, Obama's policies resulted in the announcement of an unprecedented number of coal-fired generators being scheduled for shutdown - 175 overall, with a record 57 slated for 2012 alone.
Very recently, an announcement by coal giant Alpha Natural Resources that they would be shutting down three mines in Southwest Virginia can be seen as a direct attack on people that have made their livelihoods and raised their families on the power of coal.
Republican campaign strategist Christopher LaCivita explains how the crippling assault against the coal industry has a big picture effect on the rest of the nation:
“It will resonate some among people who are concerned that their country does not have a comprehensive and multidimensional energy policy,” he said. “Anyone who cares about energy prices and keeping them affordable should care that a major portion of America’s energy assets is being taken away by this administration.”
George Allen added:
“These closures will harm jobs for all the contractors and suppliers of the mine operations. This will have a detrimental effect on railroad jobs and all Virginians may have to ultimately pay higher electricity bills. Unfortunately, these mine closures are only the latest examples of how Washington’s regulatory assault on coal is turning Virginia’s coalfield communities into ghost towns."
Higher energy prices and fewer jobs is a prescription for economic disaster, and it hits squarely in the heart of the Appalachian coal mines of Virginia.
4) Federal Red Tape
As Allen states, the regulatory excess being instituted by the current administration is crippling businesses, particularly in regards to the energy and coal industries.
FreedomWorks has previously covered this excess in the publication, Code of Federal Regulations, which has expanded by a staggering 11,000 plus pages in just three years. The President has shackled American businesses with a staggering number of rules and regulations, adding costs and stifling growth.
In regards to energy, the administration has implemented excessive and overreaching regulations through the EPA, as well as energy tax schemes through Cap-and-Trade legislation that will only serve to eliminate further jobs, and cause energy prices to necessarily skyrocket.
The American Council for Capital Formation estimates that Cap-and-Trade alone, in the form of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, would cost Virginia roughly 50,000 jobs, and would reduce Virginia’s Gross State Product (GSP) by between $1.0 and $1.8 billion per year by 2020 and $10.9 and $14.9 billion by 2030.
The energy problems that plague Virginians are a microcosm of the nation as a whole - rising fuel prices, excessive red tape, an assault on traditional forms of energy, and an administration unwilling to explore offshore drilling options.
As such, Mitt Romney's plan for energy independence seems to more accurately reflect the values of the Commonwealth - opening offshore areas for energy development, reforming regulatory burdens, and providing support for the coal industry.
Virginia is a critical swing state this election, but more critical would be watching its residents swing back in the direction of a man who can restore the state to their rightful place as an energy rich symbol of economic might.