In his speech before the Newspapers Association of America/American Society of News Editors Wednesday, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused the president of changing positions to get re-elected.
For instance, Romney charged that, "As president," Obama "delayed the development of our oil and coal and natural gas. Now, as candidate Obama, he says he favors an energy policy that adopts an all-of-the-above approach."
That's not exactly right.
Yes, Obama still says he's in favor of an all-of-the-above energy policy, but that hasn't slowed him down in his pursuit of his very-few-of-the-above policy.
Back in 2008, then-Sen. Obama explained that under his energy plan, electricity prices would "necessarily skyrocket."
The explosion in costs wouldn't be a bug of his plan either, but a feature. The idea under so-called cap-and-trade is that if you tax fossil fuels, you will, over time, reduce the use of fossil fuels. It's really basic economics. One wishes the president saw the logic of this proposition when it came to taxing business and investment as well. But that's a topic for a different column.
The president's defenders have long complained that it's unfair to dredge up this old sound bite, particularly in a climate of gas-price outrage, because Republicans -- and a lot of Democrats -- successfully prevented cap-and-trade from ever becoming law.
Absent cap-and-trade, they claim, he is pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy. Coal! Oil! Natural gas! Solar! Wind! And, of course, algae, algae, algae! We're doing it all, Obama says.
Just the other day, Vice President Joe Biden insisted that "our energy policy's the best it's ever been." Why? Because, he said, we're doing "everything," i.e., all of the above, to make energy affordable.
Except that's simply not true. It's not remotely true. A new rule from the Obama administration's EPA will, according to an Associated Press analysis, force 32 mostly coal-fired power plants to shut down and threatens to close 36 others. Moreover, the new "blackout" rule will effectively prevent the creation of any new coal-fired plants in America unless they adopt new technologies that will make it unprofitable to burn coal at all. So there's that.
Now, I don't have much affection for coal. I think mountaintop-removal mining should be phased out. But you can't really say you're pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy, or deny that you want energy prices to go up, and declare war on coal at the same time.
The inanity of all this is that the real impulse behind the war on coal is the belief that we need to stamp it out to reduce global warming. But even if you believe the full suite of global-warning-crisis complaints, the policy is nuts because the net result will be to lower the price of coal and increase the amount we sell to places like China. Is it better if we burn the coal here, with cleaner emissions and more jobs for Americans, or there, with dirtier emissions?
But forget coal. What about oil? The president killed the Keystone XL pipeline. After the BP oil spill, his administration overruled its own panel of experts to implement a moratorium on offshore drilling (while suggesting it was the experts' idea). Obama wants to revoke "subsidies" for oil companies, which are in fact the same tax write-offs that any business gets. He takes credit for the increase in oil drilling on U.S. soil but leaves out that drilling on federal and American Indian lands has gone down under his administration. He also forgets to mention that he opposes drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast, the Florida coast, the full Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or in the Rockies.
When those resources aren't exploited, oil rigs don't sit and rust, they go to other countries (often ones with fewer environmental safeguards) to find oil elsewhere -- oil we will then buy.
Romney is right to suggest that Obama is saying things he doesn't believe in order to get re-elected. But, at least on energy, he's not taking a new position. When you're the incumbent president, you can say that your position is whatever you want. But the truth of the matter isn't determined by what you say, but by what you do. And judged against what he is doing, Obama's all-of-the-above strategy isn't a policy change, it's just a lie.