obama energy speech
Obama gave a speech about energy policy today, at Georgetown.Credit where credit is due: this is a good line, concerning the last time gas was $4 a gallon, in 2008: “And because we were at the height of political season, you had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians -- they were waving their three-point plans for $2 a gallon gas. You remember that -- ‘drill, baby, drill.’”BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO BE KILLING EACH OTHER FOR A GALLON OF GASOLINE, “ROAD WARRIOR” STYLE: “We’re going to have to think long term, which is why I came here, to talk to young people here at Georgetown, because you have more of a stake in us getting our energy policy right than just about anybody.”
Another good line, somewhat hurt because he beat it into the ground: “We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back down -- we go back to doing the same things we’ve been doing until the next time there’s a price spike, and then we’re shocked again.”
He announced his grand objective: to reduce oil imports by 1/3 in ten years.
He said we should import oil from stable countries like Canada and Mexico (has he seen Mexico recently?) and maybe Brazil. “Part of the reason I went down there is to talk about energy with the Brazilians. They recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and we can share American technology and know-how with them as they develop these resources.” Our oil! Our oil! Our oil!
Of course the “hey, let’s only import oil from friendly, stable countries” idea is nonsense, since the oil market is global. Almost none of the oil used in the US is from Libya, but that didn’t shelter us from a price spike.
HARNESSES: “But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard -- because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can’t match: American ingenuity. American ingenuity, American know-how. To make ourselves more secure, to control our energy future, we’re going to have to harness all of that ingenuity.” Like in “The Matrix.”
HE JUST TOTALLY GETS YOUNG PEOPLE, DOESN’T HE? “and I know how passionate young people are about issues like climate change”.
OBAMA TOTALLY MAKES FUN OF AMNESIA PATIENTS. AMNESIA IS A VERY SERIOUS CONDITION, MR. PRESIDENT: “And lately, we’ve been hearing folks saying, well, the Obama administration, they put restrictions on how oil companies operate offshore. Well, yes, because we just spent all that time, energy and money trying to clean up a big mess. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have amnesia.”
He says Energy Secretary Steven Chu is “the right guy” to ensure that natural gas is extracted safely. “He’s got a Nobel Prize in physics. He actually deserved his Nobel Prize.” Oh good, Obama is finally admitting that he didn’t deserve his.
NERD! NERRRRRD!!! “And this is the kind of thing that he likes to do for fun on the weekend. (Laughter.) He goes into his garage and he tinkers around and figures out how to extract natural gas.”Oh lord, he mentions switchgrass. Mark down “switchgrass” as another word ruined forever by George Bush. I hear it and I get flashbacks. Not that it tends to come up in casual conversation.
“We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit”. 3,815 words before he mentions mass transit. It really could be a George Bush speech on energy, except he doesn’t make any disparaging jokes about electric cars looking like golf carts.
THE NICE THING ABOUT ENERGY EFFICIENCY: “The nice thing about energy efficiency is we already have the technology.”Another goal: “By 2035, 80 percent of our electricity needs to come from a wide range of clean energy sources”. Of course he counts nuclear power and “clean coal” as clean energy sources.
He deplores the loss of our leadership in green energy: “in the 1980s, America was home to more than 80 percent of the world’s wind capacity, 90 percent of the world’s solar capacity. We were the leaders in wind.” Those were the days.
He wants those days of wind leadership back because “I want America to win the future.”HE DIDN’T REALLY TEST IT: “I’ve tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line. I mean, I didn’t really test it -- I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop.”
In the week following the earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Energy Secretary Steven Chu was on Capitol Hill discussing the administration’s budget requests for the coming fiscal year, which include significant boosts for nuclear energy spending. Specifically, Obama has asked for $853m for nuclear research and development, including $125m to develop a new generation of smaller reactors. Also, the administration wants authority to guarantee up to $36bn in loans for new nuclear plants as part of an effort to spur an industry that hasn’t completed a new US plant in more than three decades.
Obama’s continuing support for nuclear is at odds with Americans’ changing opinions, revealed in a Civil Society Institute survey taken the week following the disaster. Three-quarters of the 814 people surveyed support shifting loan guarantees from nuclear to renewables. More than half support a moratorium on new reactor construction.
Other Democrats have voiced increasing scepticism about nuclear in light of the still out-of-control reactors in Japan. A lack of political support could become irrelevant if already wary investors sour to nuclear.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s lobby, is holding by its pre-Fukushima forecast of four to eight new nuclear reactors coming on line in the US by 2020. The country’s nuclear fleet – under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Obama's order – consists of 104 plants responsible for a fifth of US electricity generation.
If nuclear in the US is derailed by the events in Japan, Obama’s already difficult task of assembling a coalition to support his 80%-by-2035 CES could become impossible. Lawmakers from Southern states that lack renewable resources would be unlikely to go along with a mandate that leaves their constituents reliant on clean energy imported from other regions.
— President Obama, March 30, 2011
With gasoline prices soaring to $4 a gallon, President Obama delivered Wednesday a major address on energy policy — as well as an ad-libbed dig at Sarah Palin. Let’s take a tour through some of his numbers and assertions.
(At the end, we will also examine an interesting, Pinocchio-worthy fact in a preemptive floor speech on energy by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.)
“And today I want to announce a new goal — one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. That is something that we can achieve. We can cut our oil dependence — we can cut our oil dependence by a third.”
Under this goal, the United States would only be importing 7.25 million barrels a day by 2025. If you look at the current statistics, net imports dropped to 9.4 million in 2010, but that is largely because of the recession. As Obama acknowledged elsewhere in his speech, “now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up.”
Interestingly, to reach this goal, the administration is largely betting that a bulk of the reduction would come from the aggressive fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles (known as “CAFE standards”) announced by Obama in 2009. The new standards are supposed to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of passenger vehicles sold between 2012 and 2016. So, notwithstanding this week’s speech, the most significant action taken by the president to reduce dependence on foreign oil has already been taken.
“Now, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003, and for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed. So that was a good trend.”
We have dealt with this statistic before, and gave the president a Pinnochio for it. Domestic oil production is up largely because oil companies have begun to extract oil from a vast shale field in North Dakota and other states. Meanwhile, the independent Energy Information Administration is forecasting that domestic crude oil production will decline this year and next. Imports went down because of the recession and are expected to revive. So the predicted trends are not in the right direction.
“Last year, more than 150 members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, produced legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. And that's a big deal. You know, getting 150 members of Congress to agree on anything is a big deal. And they were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil but who is out there making the simple point that we can't simply drill our way out of our energy problems.”
Actually, Pickens made most of his fortune in natural gas, as well as speculating on oil stocks. (He made unsuccessful takeover bids of a number of oil companies in the 1980s, pocketing millions of dollars on his investments.) The main source of his wealth was a company he created, Mesa Petroleum, which his Web site says “produced more than 3 trillion cubic feet of gas and 150 million barrels of oil from 1964 to 1996.” Many of his current ventures involve alternative energy, suggesting his current campaign has a measure of self-interest.
“We've also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering all Americans — whether they are urban, suburban or rural — the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.”
Obama did not mention that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) recently turned down $2.4 billion in federal funding for a high-speed rail system in his state.
“Just three of the areas we could tap in Alaska are thought to hold enough oil to replace our crude imports from the Persian Gulf for nearly 65 years. So the problem isn't that we need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don't want us to use the energy we have. It's enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately.”
Obama, in his speech, “America holds about 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.” So how does that track with McConnell’s numbers?
Obama is talking about actual proven reserves — and the areas in Alaska referenced by McConnell are currently off-limits to drilling and thus don’t count. The proved reserves in Alaska amount to 3.5 billion barrels. The mean probability of the technically recoverable oil in coastal plain of Alaska is about 10 billion barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration. (The mean probability is that there are 10 chances out of 20 the crude oil can be recovered.)
Finally, note that McConnell mentioned crude imports from the Persian Gulf. Despite the popular image of Saudi Arabia filling U.S. gas tanks, the United States imports most of its oil from the Western Hemisphere. In 2010, Persian Gulf imports amounted to just 18 percent of total net imports, or 1.7 million barrels a day. By keeping the focus on the Persian Gulf, McConnell is able to stretch his fact far into the future.
Still, over 65 years, that would amount to about 40 billion barrels. The EIA says there is just a 5 percent probability (meaning one chance out of 20) that as much as 42 billion barrels of crude could be recovered in Alaska. That seems to really stretch the definition of “thought.”