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Obama’s Energy Blueprint: Same Silliness, Different Day

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The president offers a list of ideas that fly in the face of fundamental realities.

Don’t let a non-war go to waste!

Trying desperately to divert attention away from the non-war in Libya, his administration’s ongoing spending spree, and his regulation war on the nation’s industry, the president has once again turned his attention to pitching an energy plan that is a dog’s breakfast of muddled thinking, wishful thinking, and, mostly, non-thinking. It will appeal to the president’s green base, of course, but the president’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” would better be named “Same Silliness, Different Day.”

So what did the president offer?

1. A completely unrealistic goal of decreasing oil imports by one-third in about ten years. As every serious energy analyst knows, energy transitions take many decades.

2. More domestic production—heavily hedged by caveats, and counter to what the administration has, until recently, actually been doing with regard to domestic production.

3. A rehashed version of the old “the oil companies are sitting on leases out of a sense of greed,” which I debunked here.

4. More “renewable” liquid fuels like the environmentally disastrous corn ethanol, including cellulosic ethanol, which, as I’ve pointed out, has been ten years away for 50 years. That’s okay, we’ll “break ground” on four next-generation biorefineries in the next two years anyway—we can always mothball them later. The president cites Brazil as a sterling example of ethanol use, but as I pointed out this week, Brazil will soon import U.S. ethanol and gasoline because its farmers are finding sugar more valuable as sugar than as ethanol.

5. Higher fuel efficiencies for vehicles, which vehicle manufacturers are having trouble meeting, and which increase vehicle costs, in turn suppressing demand and slowing fleet turnover. Oh, and due to the rebound effect, higher fuel efficiencies lead people to drive more, which, in some cases, leads to increased pollution.

6. More government purchases of more expensive cars. “Today, I am directing agencies to purchase 100 percent alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015.” I suppose that the government is not quite expensive enough when driving less expensive conventional vehicles. Does this include the ever-money-losing Postal Service?

7. High-speed rail and mass transit, ideas rejected by virtually every transportation analyst other than those who view trains in a mostly religious context.

8. More subsidized building insulation and retrofits with more expensive windows, lighting, HVAC systems, etc.

9. More wind and solar power, proven failures all across Europe.

10. A “renewable energy standard,” which, as I’ve pointed out, is simply cap-and-trade for electrical utilities, and should be dead-on-arrival in a Republican House.

About all the president offered outside the Greenpeace playbook was to increase our use of natural gas for power and transportation, again, surrounded by caveats about safety, which is code for “slow development.” President Obama asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu to “tinker on this stuff in his garage on the weekend.” My suspicion is that was an accidental truth, showing how much attention the Obama administration will spend on accelerating natural gas production compared to its ongoing efforts to slow it down. And, of course, Obama supports “safe nuclear power,” which is quite safe given that after Japan’s disaster nobody’s likely to build for some time.

The president’s energy speech is the same mishmash of sloppy thinking that pours out of environmental groups and left-leaning think tanks every day. It’s a list of ideas that fly in the face of fundamental energy realities: affordable and abundant energy is vital for America’s future; fossil fuels are cheaper and vastly more abundant than alternatives; energy transitions take decades and are best driven by markets; and government cannot pick winning and losing technologies—all it does when it tries is waste taxpayer dollars, weaken the economy, and kill jobs.

Kenneth P. Green is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

FURTHER READING: Green also wrote “A Punching Bag No More,” “Cap-and-Trade by Any Other Name,” and “Moderate Republicans and the Ratchet Effect.” He reveals “The Myth of Green Energy Jobs: The European Experience,” explains “Empowering the Free Energy Markets,” and says these are “Not Going Away: America's Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges.”

Image by Rob Green/Bergman Group.

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