President Obama stepped to the stage at The University of Miami yesterday to deliver an impressive speech on energy policy. Though the President made mention of his efforts to expand oil and gas drilling in the United States, he also made clear that those were not the long-term answer to our energy woes. He outlined the fact that the United States uses 20% of the world’s oil but only has 2% of the world’s reserves and that even if we tried, we couldn’t drill ourselves out of this mess. After setting this clear line of attack the President then went on to talk to the engineering students in the audience about the Energy Department’s energy assessment program which is saving businesses $5.6 billion dollars in energy costs. He then rolled smoothly through our green energy prospects, leaving no stone unturned – from American manufacturing of wind and solar panels to the development of algae fuels. It’s nice to see that at least one politician out there gets the idea that there is more than one way to solve our energy problems – and that most of those ways are green.

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It seems the President’s team — which includes Energy Secretary Steven Chu, shown above — is hard at work condensing the global oil crisis down into a statement that the public can understand and for the first time ever, we think he’s hit the mark. After deriding “some politicians” for using high gas prices as a political opportunity the President got down to business explaining how to get this country out of this mess. The amount of oil that we drill at home doesn’t set the price of gas by itself.  The oil market is global; oil is bought and sold in a world market.  And just like last year, the single biggest thing that’s causing the price of oil to spike right now is instability in the Middle East -– this time around Iran. “When uncertainty increases, speculative trading on Wall Street increases, and that drives prices up even more,” the President told the audience. He then went on to detail the millions of cars being put on the road in countries like China and India each year and how that will affect global oil prices further.

After quite a few somewhat unintelligible arguments against electric vehicles on behalf of Obama’s opponents it seems the President wanted to steer clear of that topic in this speech and instead focus on even higher tech solutions to the issues. “We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance — algae,” the President said. “If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States.”

The President spent a lot of his speech focusing on bringing energy usage down in buildings and in cars as a great short term solution to the long term energy problem. He mentioned his ground breaking 54.5 miles per gallon average fleet goal for 2025 and his investments in programs to train professionals on how to bring business energy needs down to save oil and money.

Though we are disheartened to think that the President is placing much of this strategy on dangerous natural gas extraction, we understand his need to not only cool the tempers of his opposition but also to fill the needs we have now with fuels we can use now. Things like algae are a part of our future, not our present and the President urged the students at University of Miami to be the ones to make that future happen.

“I need you guys to work hard. I need you guys to dream big. I need those of you who are a lot smarter than me to figure out how we’re going to be able to tap into new energy sources,” the President urged the audience in a tone reminiscent of his 2011 State of the Union speech. “We’ve got to summon the spirit of optimism and that willingness to tackle tough problems that led previous generations to meet the challenges of their times -– to power a nation from coast to coast, to send a man to the moon, to connect an entire world with our own science and our own imagination.”

+ The White House

Lead image by Intel Photos on Flickr of President Obama speaking in Arizona