Energy Fantasyland

Victor Davis Hanson
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Posted: Mar 24, 2011 12:01 AM

Gas is well over $4 a gallon in most places in California -- and soaring elsewhere as well. But are such high energy prices good or bad?

That should be a stupid question. Yet it is not when the Obama administration has stopped new domestic offshore oil exploration in many American waters, curbed oil leases in the West, and keeps oil-rich areas of Alaska exempt from drilling. Last week, President Obama went to Brazil and declared of that country's new offshore finds: "With the new oil finds off Brazil, President (Dilma) Rousseff has said that Brazil wants to be a major supplier of new stable sources of energy, and I've told her that the United States wants to be a major customer, which would be a win-win for both our countries."

Consider the logic of the president's Orwellian declaration: The United States in the last two years has restricted oil exploration of the sort Brazil is now rushing to embrace. We have run up more than $4 trillion in consecutive budget deficits during the Obama administration and are near federal insolvency. Therefore, the United States should be happy to borrow more money to purchase the sort of "new stable sources of energy" from Brazil's offshore wells that we most certainly will not develop off our own coasts.

It seems as if paying lots more for electricity and gas, in European fashion, was originally part of the president's new green agenda. He helped push cap-and-trade legislation through the House of Representatives in 2009. Had such Byzantine regulations become law, a recessionary economy would have sunk into depression. Obama appointed the incompetent Van Jones as "green jobs czar" -- until Jones' wild rantings confirmed that he knew nothing about his job description "to advance the administration's climate and energy initiatives."

At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, the administration is borrowing billions to promote high-speed rail, and is heavily invested in the federally subsidized $42,000 Government Motors Chevy Volt. Apparently the common denominator here is a deductive view that high energy prices will force Americans to emulate European centrally planned and state-run transportation.

That conclusion is not wild conspiracy theory, but simply the logical manifestation of many of the Obama administration's earlier campaign promises. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu -- now responsible for the formulation of American energy policy -- summed up his visions to the Wall Street Journal in 2008: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." I think Chu is finally figuring out the "somehow."

A year earlier, Chu was more explicit in his general contempt for the sort of fuels that now keep Americans warm and on the road: "Coal is my worst nightmare. ... We have lots of fossil fuel. That's really both good and bad news. We won't run out of energy but there's enough carbon in the ground to really cook us."

In fairness to Chu, he was only amplifying what Obama himself outlined during the 2008 campaign. Today's soaring energy prices are exactly what candidate Obama once dreamed about: "Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." Obama, like Chu, made that dream even more explicit in the case of coal "So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can -- it's just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

There are lots of ironies to these Alice-in-Wonderland energy fantasies. As the public become outraged over gas prices, a panicked Obama pivots to brag that we are pumping more oil than ever before -- but only for a time, and only because his predecessors approved the type of drilling he has stopped.

The entire climate-change movement, fairly or not, is now in shambles, thanks to serial scandals about faked research, consecutive record cold and wet winters in much of Europe and the United States, and the conflict-of-interest, get-rich schemes of prominent global-warming preachers such as Al Gore.

The administration's energy visions are formulated by academics and government bureaucrats who live mostly in cities with short commutes and have worked largely for public agencies. These utopians have no idea that without reasonably priced fuel and power, the self-employed farmer cannot produce food. The private plant operator cannot create plastics. And the trucker cannot bring goods to the consumer -- all the basics like lettuce, iPads and Levis that a highly educated, urbanized elite both enjoys and yet has no idea of how a distant someone else made their unbridled consumption possible.