It wasn't supposed to work like this. According to Al Gore, we were going to have an energy version of Moore's Law (though not actually a scientific law, Moore's Law refers to the trend of computers to get twice as powerful every 18 months). Gore argued that solar cells and wind power would get drastically more efficient very quickly. Nothing like that has happened or is likely to happen, as the University of Manitoba's Vaclav Smil has demonstrated at great length. Transitions from one form of energy to another, Smil writes at The American (american.com), are "inherently protracted affairs" requiring "decades, not years." And let's remember that Gore once insisted that ethanol subsidies were a fast track to a green economy. He said, in effect, "never mind" about that last month.
Obama won't admit it, but his moratorium is simply supply-side rationing. America should deny itself economic growth despite the fact it has potentially massive oil reserves. Democrats uniformly insist they are fixated on creating good jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. But they're intent on killing oil-industry jobs, which by definition cannot be sent overseas and also pay twice the national average.
Meanwhile, it's becoming clear that the U.S. could be the Saudi Arabia of cleaner-burning natural gas, with an estimated 100-year supply of the stuff (and possibly more). And yet roadblocks to natural-gas development grow by the day. We could make realistic progress on reducing our carbon emissions if we set about replacing coal with natural gas. (At minimum we could and should phase out mountaintop removal coal mining, which among other things would make natural gas more competitive.)
Of course, greens say that climate change trumps such considerations, and that's a principled argument -- flawed in my view but principled. But mainstream politicians and pundits with the courage to make the principled case for rationing are hard to come by.
I'd have a lot more respect for Obama if he came out and said, "You know all that stuff I said about doing everything possible to create good jobs here at home and get this economy moving again? Well, never mind."
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