A new language was introduced in Washington when President Obama began his first term in office. For a time, it flummoxed his observers, including many Republicans, who were caught off-balance by the combination of the President’s soaring rhetoric and his Chicago-style politics.
The language is newspeak. Introduced by George Orwell, it is characterized by using familiar words and phrases in unfamiliar ways. In the President’s parlance, “fair” means skewering the upper middle-class and redistributing their wealth. "Necessary investments" are excuses to raise taxes and grow government.
Similar convoluted definitions exist in the President’s energy policy pronouncements. His “all-of-the-above” approach apparently means wasting precious federal revenues on failed renewable projects while bankrupting the coal industry and slapping new taxes and regulations on U.S. oil and natural gas producers.
Promoting renewables is hardly a new idea. President Jimmy Carter tried it in the 1970s when the Iranian Revolution and gasoline lines made America fearful of its dependence on foreign oil. Speaking to the nation in April 1977, he called the energy crisis the “moral equivalent of war” and said “we must prepare…permanent renewable energy sources” because “we are now running out of gas and oil.”
Although many in America apparently don’t remember that President Carter’s renewable energy investments were an expensive failure, his warning stuck in the American psyche. Today there are still countless Americans in denial about our ability to achieve North American energy independence in the near term.
The latest global energy projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shatter the Carter-era myths. According to EIA, U.S. imports of foreign oil are plummeting and are expected to continue to fall in 2013 and 2014. Oil production in both OPEC and non-OPEC countries is expected to rise. New technologies, including hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, are rapidly expanding U.S. oil and natural gas production, while improved vehicle fuel economy and other factors are likely to continue reducing demand for oil.
Furthermore, North America could provide 100 percent of U.S. demand for liquid fuels by 2024. That’s an amazing feat considering the gloom and doom prognostications from the Carter Administration 36 years ago.
Yet this good news is being downplayed by the Obama Administration. Instead of a robust energy policy including approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the President is clinging to oldspeak, or at least old ideas, to address a different dilemma—climate change. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, he is promulgating regulations on traditional energy production while subsidizing renewable energy companies.
Simply put, the President is repeating historical mistakes by propping up energy sources that are as yet unreliable, unaffordable, and cannot compete without federal support.
The Administration’s latest embarrassment is Fisker Automotive, an electric car company that was expected to generate sales of more than $1 billion by 2012. Despite federal loan guarantees amounting to $193 million, the company recently fired 160 of its remaining 200 employees and hired a bankruptcy law firm. With the government likely to inherent the company, now worth only pennies on the dollar, a congressional panel is investigating the Administration’s investment.
To make matters worse for the President, climate scientists are at a loss to explain why the planet has not warmed in the past 16 years. As Richard Tol, professor and climate expert at England’s University of Sussex, told Reuters, “My own confidence in the data has gone down in the past five years.”
So far questionable climate models and bankrupt renewable energy companies have not dampened the President’s quest to save the planet from humans. Although he paid lip-service to domestic oil and natural gas production in his recent State of the Union address, he said “we must do more to combat climate change” to safeguard our future.
If the President ignores the promise of secure domestic oil and gas production and continues to embrace the failed energy policies of the 1970s, more federal dollars will be wasted, U.S. economic growth could remain slow, and millions of workers will continue to face an uncertain future. On the other hand, if the President encourages domestic oil and natural gas production, hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created in the energy industry, along with more than one million new manufacturing jobs.
As the President assembles his new team for his second term, there is very little reason for economic optimism. One thing we can count on, however, is that the President’s policy pronouncements are likely to be couched in newspeak to camouflage their impact on our wallets.