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Obama: Let's Focus on "Clean" Energy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
President Barack Obama started off his speech on energy policy today by ironically taking a shot a political campaigning, saying slogans like "drill, baby, drill" are not substantial ways to move forward. Interesting coming from a President who recently told the country of Brazil to drill so the U.S. could become one of their best customers.

Obama expressed the pain around high gas prices as a temporary political talking point, that when prices are high there are complaints, when they are low, the push for renewed energy policy dies off.

“But it was also the height of political season [2008], so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas - when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem.”

So what is President Obama’s energy plan moving forward?

The president mentioned opportunities for companies to explore and produce energy in areas offshore, if it is safe to do so. The big word here is “if.” If the Environmental Protection Agency approves that it is safe. If the Department of the Interior approves that it is safe. If the Energy Secretary approves it is safe. If the "green" lobbying groups approve it is safe. If President Obama approves it is safe.

Obama played the political card by mentioning the option of drilling for oil in the United States in order to look more moderate on energy policy, but the majority of his speech was focused on demonizing oil and auto companies that make SUVs. The President encouraged policy that moves the U.S. away from oil no matter what the cost. His goal: to cut oil imports by one-third by 2025.Obama’s speech also hinted at more government regulation of the auto industry by requiring higher fuel efficiency standards for things like tractors, dump trucks and other vehicles used for construction projects and farming.

A key point in Obama’s speech came when he told students that they had the power to control the types of vehicles on the road, that they need to purchase electric vehicles in order to make a difference, inadvertently making the case for a freer market in which consumers are able to make choices to better their lives. He didn't mention the stunning lack of market demand for electric vehicles.

Yet, the Obama Administration and the EPA are forcing companies to adhere to stricter emissions standards, giving companies no choice but to produce vehicles like the Chevy Volt, a product consumers don’t want to buy.

“So there's no reason we shouldn't be using these renewable fuels throughout America. That's why we're investing in things like fueling stations and research into the next generation of biofuels," the President said. "Over the next two years, we'll help entrepreneurs break ground on four next-generation biorefineries - each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year. And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure they meet today's challenges and save taxpayers money.”

But will this really save taxpayers money? Obama admitted in his speech that “clean” energy is expensive, and that people will need government "help" in order to comply with energy standards, specifically in their homes.

“A lot of people may not have the money up front,” Obama said outside of prepared remarks. He also stressed that government funding would be critical to carry out his energy policy plan.

Silver lining: the President wasn’t willing to take nuclear energy off the table in light of the events in Japan.

“Now, in light of ongoing events in Japan, I want to say another word about nuclear power,” he said. “America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy. It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I'm determined to ensure that it's safe.”

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