Obama believed he was smart enough to start whole new industries simply by sluicing taxpayer dollars into the right maws. Any suggestion that the transition to inefficient energy sources might come at a cost to taxpayers or economic growth was derided as a "false choice."
It seems like Obama at least understands the tough choices he faces. In 2009, the president's Earth Day message was stridently dedicated to climate change. In 2012, it didn't even mention the word "climate." The administration wants everyone to believe it supports "fracking" and natural gas development. When Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he prefers high gasoline prices, the administration all but defenestrated the guy. Much to the chagrin of the green lobby, Obama will not be attending this year's Earth Summit. Heck, the current picture on the White House's energy and environment page even shows Obama happily walking past a stack of oil pipes. Subtle.
Yes, Obama threw a bone to the greens on the Keystone pipeline, but he more quietly opened up the Alaskan Arctic to new oil development, granting Shell permits to drill offshore.
"We never would have expected a Democratic president -- let alone one seeking to be 'transformative' -- to open up the Arctic Ocean for drilling," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told The New York Times.
Now, I have no doubt that Obama's course correction is entirely political. For instance, if he hadn't approved the Arctic drilling, Shell almost surely would have sued the administration for the billions it's spent developing its Arctic leases. That's not the kind of lawsuit Obama would want in an election year.
But saying Obama has caved to political reality doesn't change the fact that political reality is largely a function of economic reality. In Europe and America alike, voters increasingly recognize that the benefits of the green revolution aren't worth the costs, particularly when the revolutionaries don't have a clue what they're doing. The only question for voters is whether Obama has really learned his lesson, or whether he plans on reverting to type if re-elected.