Where do I get my energy?
None of the holes Ive dug in the backyard have produced anything, so I buy gasoline for my car from federally-regulated oil companies and my natural gas and electricity from publicly-regulated monopoly utilities.
And sometimes I swing by Starbucks and pick up a shot of personal get-up-and-go.
Last week President Barack Obama addressed energy issues in front of students at Georgetown University, releasing a new Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. Our fearless leader intends to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Moreover, Mr. Obama told students, I want to announce a new goal . . . By a little more than a decade from now, we will have . . . cut our oil dependence by a third.
Obama noted that presidents going back to Richard Nixon have promised energy independence, he said, but that promise has so far gone unmet. What the president doesnt understand is why previous presidents were, as he is, just spouting words.
Americans are wisely skeptical of big oil and monopoly utility companies, but at least these outfits actually find, extract, refine, produce and sell energy resources to heat and air condition our homes and run our cars. Presidents bring only money to the issue — ours.
The two essential elements of the Obama energy blueprint are first, finding and producing more oil at home; second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.
Finding and producing more oil sounds an awful lot like the Drill, Baby, Drill idea the president mocked at the beginning of his Georgetown address — even as he claimed credit for the highest domestic oil production since 2003. Someday the commander-in-chief will decide whether more production is a silly goal or a worthwhile accomplishment. For now, its both.
But Obamas claims of actively promoting energy production are flatly contradicted my folks trying to make a living in the energy business, including Randy Stilley, the CEO of now bankrupt Seahawk Drilling. His hard-hitting recent Washington Post op-ed laid the blame for his companys demise at the foot of the U.S. Government and the drastic slowdown in the issuance of permits for shallow-water drilling operations. . . .
The President also dittos the perennial notions, like training all 300 million of us to inflate our automobile tires properly, or mandating car companies to produce more fuel efficient cars. But even Obama and friends admit these arent serious methods of reaching his long-off goal of slicing dependence on foreign oil by one-third.
When it comes to replacing oil with new technological breakthroughs made possible by massive government investment and regulation of the economy, the Administration seems utterly earnest.
I want to make this point, Obama told the students, Government funding will be critical.
The Obama Administration wants to fund electric car battery research, increase demand for hybrid vehicles by mandating that the federal government purchase only hybrids, and fund solar, biofuel and other new clean energy technology. In short, the Obama Administration wants to take charge of the semi-private energy industry and subsidize the way to an entirely new system.
No matter how desperate the fiscal crunch, the president went on record last week absolutely opposed to sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, arguing it would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil. Thats not a game plan to win the future.
As the Obama Administration aims to win the energy future, by what measure can we judge their efforts to change the energy make-up of the world economy?
Already, the president gives his administration high marks: Im proud of the historic progress that weve made over the last two years.
I hadnt noticed a thing. (Seamless change, perhaps.)
But when the goal was announced to cut foreign oil imports by one-third, I couldnt help but detect that the timeline isnt limited to Mr. Obamas current term or even to the end of a possible second term. No, the goal is for a third less foreign dependence by 2025 — nearly a decade after he would leave office. (Presumably.)
Come to think of it, the administration passed a Better Buildings Initiative to make commercial buildings 20 percent more efficient by 2020. An Executive Order directs federal agencies to design all new buildings to require zero net energy by 2020. And best of all, Obama promises to have 80 percent of the nations energy coming from a bevy of clean sources . . . by 2035.
There seems little if any mention of how much progress might occur closer to the here and now, i.e. while school kids can still remember Obamas name.
Perhaps it was a mistake that Obamas goal of having a million electric vehicles on the road was set to fall when he might still be in office — by 2015. It seems the only goal Obama might have to address before leaving office.
Sure, I know that some things such as going to the Moon — or George W. Bushs inane goal of going to Mars — take time to accomplish. But leaders should still focus on what part of the goal they can actually accomplish.
That might produce Washingtons rarest and most valuable substance of all: accountability.
If I ever run for president (don't hold your breath), maybe Ill promise that in ten years all the problems will be solved and perfect happiness provided free of charge to everyone. Just give me eight years, two terms, and a really good successor.
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