David Harsanyi

The formula for power is relatively simple:

Energy divided by time equals power.

The formula for "clean energy" power, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more complicated, as there is no known numerical value for moral exhibitionism and flights of the imagination. Not yet.

I suspect all this excessive anger directed at the Obama administration over the BP oil spill is likely symptomatic of an unhealthy faith many of us have in government's supernatural abilities. But watching one of the leading proponents of The Faith taking it on the chin for not doing enough ... well, karmic justice certainly has its moments.

Rush Limbaugh

Not to worry, though. I also have faith that Barack Obama will turn calamity into political opportunity. And this very week, he pulled out the playbook.

"I say we can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy, because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security and our environment are far greater," the president explained in a speech ostensibly about cleaning up an accidental oil spill.

Could he provide the American people with an example of government-subsidized industries that have spurred a wondrous economic boom? Because at this point, even with the billions in subsidies and handouts -- not to mention mandates -- only 5 percent of our energy needs are met with renewable sources.

Of that 5 percent, the only sectors producing any detectable power are hydroelectric (not a new technology) and ethanol (a terrible technology). Solar, which endlessly is cited by dreamy politicians, provides 1 percent of all renewable energy -- or, scientifically speaking, zilch.

That's a whole lot of dough for remarkably little power. The problem seems to be that "new-energy economy" advocates confuse moral convictions with economic productivity. How affordably and how efficiently can you deliver power to the American people? That's what matters. Renewables are unable to compete in this arena unless government artificially spikes the price of carbon-based fuel. That's the plan.

After all, outside of studies that use prospective models, "clean energy" economies haven't been working out very well. A famous 2009 report from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid found that for every green-energy-subsidizing job created by the government, at least 2.2 jobs were lost in the process. Every green job Spain has concocted since 2000 has cost taxpayers $774,000. Spain is about to be junk-bonded, and its green-energy economy is not helping.

What about the president's contention that "we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water"? This is what you might call a meta-truth. For instance, "The sun is dying!" or "The budget will be balanced." The oil, coal and natural gas we know exists but haven't drilled for yet alone would be enough to provide hundreds of years of energy for the nation.

Perhaps it's a testament to a president who has done more to stimulate belief in free enterprise than any other in 40 years, but 68 percent of Americans, according to a recent Pew poll, believe the nation should expand exploration for coal, gas and oil, even after the BP accident.

A larger number of Americans also embrace the idea of clean energy. They embrace balance.

It's one thing to watch reality battered by environmentalists during good times; it's quite a different story today. There is no clean-energy economy without a severe trade-off that will cost jobs and prosperity.

Now, the president may believe that it's worthwhile to sacrifice your prosperity on a moral imperative. But let's not obscure what we're talking about here.


David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.