Pete Sepp is executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union.
For millions of us, the New Year signifies a fresh start—a chance to embrace success and learn from failure. But here in the nation's capital, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, elected officials risk carrying a long hangover from many of 2011's bungled fiscal and energy policies unless they review what went wrong and change course now.
One of the most glaring mistakes of 2011 was the Obama administration's unwarranted delay over whether to approve Keystone XL, a proposed 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to Texas that holds solid promise for economic growth as well as more energy supplies close to home.
Issues over the pipeline's ecological impact have been confronted forthrightly through exhaustive public meetings, over 10,000 pages of environmental review, state-of-the-art technological advancements, and even a planned rerouting of the pipeline to avoid Nebraska's Sandhill region—one of the main points of contention.
This suggests the president is making a calculation about a slice of his political base (voters disappointed over his environmental record) rather than acting on legitimate concerns and brokering an acceptable deal. And with this week's rising tensions and the resulting climb in global energy prices, foot-dragging on development projects like Keystone will likely add to the anxiety of U.S. drivers, who've been experiencing ever higher gas prices. American workers, eager for the estimated 20,000 jobs XL's construction would initially create, will be disappointed too.
Despite all the sound and fury, bringing federal expenditures back under control remains a distant goal. Last month, Congress quietly passed a 2012 omnibus spending bill to the tune of $1 trillion-plus, marking a detour from even the modest progress toward a sustainable government that House Republicans proposed in their budget resolution in early 2011.
Lawmakers need to more carefully assess which budgeting choices deliver a net positive impact on our economy versus those that don't. For instance, the $100 million cut from the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program (the program responsible for the Solyndra scandal) was a net positive and will hopefully mark the beginning of a wider effort to root out such subsidies. On the other hand, perennial calls for tax hikes on America's oil sector threaten to undermine one of our country's best job-creating industries.
At best, 2012 promises to be a challenging year, both inside and outside Washington. While the European Union continues to grapple with its own economic issues, China, Brazil and India are making significant inroads in the global economy. Hopefully elected officials will take the right steps in response to ensure our economy moves forward.