Obama's Stage Magic

I love stage magic.

Big stage effects like making the Statue of Liberty disappear, cabaret magic like sawing a lady in half, or, best of all, the close-up effects of table magic (i.e., making coins appear and disappear, floating business cards, all that sort of thing). I even had my own small magic show in junior high, and while I never could develop the dexterity for the best tricks, I learned enough to love the craft and respect the skill involved.

When you're an aspiring magician, you watch the best magicians you can find, trying to see how the trick is done.  You learn not to watch what the magician wants, to look where the magician isn't looking, to concentrate on the left hand if the trick seems to be happening in the right hand.

This skill is turning very useful watching the Obama administration.  This week, for example, there was a big announcement of a change in the Obama administration's policy toward oil drilling, dutifully announced as the administration opening up great areas offshore for oil development.

Watch the other hand. Since the administration took over, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has canceled oil-drilling leases on wide areas of the U.S. that already have known reserves, and the Obama administration is seriously considering making even more of the American West inaccessible for oil production -- and lots of other uses -- by declaring millions of acres as national monuments. ANWR, with well-known oil reserves, is out, but other areas in Alaska are being opened ... for exploration. In fact, even this announcement included the Department of the Interior canceling already pending sales in Alaska so that the areas involved could be made available for exploratory studies. (Got that? The administration canceled pending lease sales and "opened" the area for exploration.)

Known reserves on the Pacific Coast: out. Exploration off the Atlantic Coast, more than 50 miles offshore: in.

Or make that "in, maybe," because there are some other issues. Many of the areas opened for exploration also turn out to be areas with environmental issues, or existing congressional limits on development. Even if oil and gas are found, it's unclear when -- or if -- it could even actually be pumped.

Consistently, the Obama administration's "new" oil policy comes down to be taking existing reserves off the table and announcing permission to begin to start to explore for oil and natural gas, which if found won't be leasable. And as Rick Moran said here in PJM, any production that might come of it will be long after Obama has left office.