President Obama did a neat trick in his State of the Union address: the president took credit for increased energy production in the U.S. that his policies had sought to strangle.

And now for the encore: he is using executive authority to designate 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge wilderness, which means that it could not be used to develop energy. This would abrogate a 1980 agreement with Congress that allowed energy exploration in some of this area.

And in addition to stopping energy production, the action would do something else that, as the Wall Street Journal notes this morning, makes it even more attractive to President Obama:

It’s also a slap at the new Republican Congress, where Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been corralling bipartisan support for more Arctic drilling.

It could also be a devastating blow to the economy of Alaska, as Politico, no bastion of conservatism, notes:

Alaska gets more than 90 percent of its government revenues from the energy industry, and efforts to open up new areas for oil and gas exploration are backed by both Democrats and Republicans. The latest push from Obama has put new strains on Alaska’s already tense relationship with the Interior Department.

The wilderness designation must be approved by Congress but the Department of the Interior can be more forceful in protecting against supposed threats to the environment without Congress.

The Wall Street Journal editorial also notes that the move “seems to be part of a larger strategy to starve the existing Trans-Alaska pipeline, the 800-mile system that carries oil south from state lands in Prudhoe Bay.” This move could have a profound effect on future energy production:

The political prize here is the death of the Alaska oil pipeline, which in its heyday pushed some 2.2 million barrels of oil south a day, but has seen volume slow to 500,000 barrels a day as the state’s existing oil fields decline. The drop in oil prices has increased financial pressure on Arctic drillers, and any lower flow threatens the viability of the pipeline.

This is what environmentalists want because they know that if the pipeline shuts down, it must by law be dismantled. Since the pipeline is the only way to get large quantities of Alaskan oil south, shutting it down means closing to exploration one of the world’s greatest repositories of hydrocarbons.

The Wall Street Journal laments that the president doesn’t seem to be as concerned by the economic future of Alaskans as he is for the caribou. The action is also a classic example of the kind of executive overreach to which this republic is becoming increasingly familiar and looks right past the technological advances that make it possible to develop energy while respecting the environment.  

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski made an impassioned plea against the president’s action on CNN, calling it “a stunning attack” on Alaska’s economy. She said:

"I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska," she said. "But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal."

And you thought that there was a chance that President Obama would approve the Keystone Pipeline?

The Hamlet thing was just an act–Hamlet had made up his mind and was just stringing us along until the second term.