President Obama is hitting the west and midwest with a series of speeches touting his “all of above” energy policy, which reads like a Country Buffet menu. Few will like everything on the plate – in his press release and stump speeches this week he is touting fast tracking oil pipelines and small nuclear reactor research. Energy efficiency and renewable technology took up the slack as he announced the Green Button Initiative as well as a tiny biofuels and lightweight material grant. While it is good news that energy policy is now –finally – the center of debate, what’s missing in the President’s speeches is any mention of the crushing need to reduce green house gas emissions, which has become a political third rail as of late.
Obama’s opponents are giving him political heat for the inevitable rise in prices at the pump, and a poll by the New York Times and CBS News shows that 54 percent of Americans believe the president can do something about the price of gasoline. Need we say that there is almost no connection with domestic drilling and world oil prices and consumer costs for gas. The reality of the energy situation is much more complex than a boilerplate response, and while Obama gives the nation some credit by outlying a very broad agenda, he hasn’t brought up the underlying issues of environmental degradation and global warming.
Instead the President continues his push for alternative energy sources to become mainstream, touting job creation for renewable energy technology at the Solar 1 Facility in Boulder City, Nevada earlier this week on the heels of announcing a tariff on Chinese solar panels. He accused Republican presidential candidates of “talking down new sources of energy,” like the “founding members of the Flat Earth Society” in Maryland before his swing out west. In Maljamar, New Mexico he said today “So we’re going to develop every possible source of American-made energy. Oil and gas, wind power, solar power, biofuels, fuel-efficient cars and trucks that get more miles to the gallon — that’s our future. And the good news is we’re already seeing progress.”
His proposals are certainly not flat earth, but more of a puzzle. He has proposed $450 million in research and licensing for modular nuclear reactors and plans to fast track the lower half of the Key Stone pipeline and other pipelines. He’s also made a commitment to smart grid technologies, which he emphasizes in a new program called Green Button, which will allow simple access to consumer home energy usage. Today the White House also announced a paltry $35 million for bio-fuels research, which hardly compares to the $2 billion in tax subsidies received by oil companies. The revocation of the oil tax break will come to a vote again in the Senate on Monday. $14.5 million is also promised for research into advance lightweight materials for cars, which is probably less than what auto makers currently spend on cup holder research.
Perhaps in an election year we should not expect much more, but the announcement feels more defensive than bold. The President has always shown a commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency, but his everything goes policy reveals the White House’s ( and nations’) tepid embrace of a future without fossil fuels and underscores how politics and sound energy policy, like oil and water, don’t mix.
Lead Photo © Julie Jacobson/AP