The President's Snooze Button

In a speech at Georgetown University on March 30, President Obama declared that "we cannot keep going from shock to trance...rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again." Obama meant these words to apply to his predecessors in office, among them Jimmy Carter, who famously suggested that the energy shortages of the 1970s might be solved if Americans would just don heavier sweaters. But Obama is hardly the most self-aware of American presidents -- if he were, he would realize how perfectly those words apply to his own energy policies.

For more than two years, Obama has been hitting the snooze button on energy. Through the Interior Department, EPA, and other agencies, he has carried out an unprecedented assault on all workable forms of energy from coal and oil to natural gas and nuclear power. Ever since he launched his campaign for the presidency in 2007, in fact, Obama has pandered to the alternative energy lobby, a well-funded group that continues to bankroll Democratic politicians.

Weeks before his election, Obama posted a video that proposed spending $150 billion on alternative energy while promising that the measures would make the country energy independent and create 5 million new jobs. To date, half of that $150 billion has been spent ($40 billion of it was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), but the nation is even more dependent on imported oil, and where are the jobs? 

The fact is that throughout his time on the national scene, Obama has been asleep at the wheel, particularly so on energy. Now that gas prices are spiking as a result of his policies, he thinks that an energy speech delivered to a friendly audience of liberal students at Georgetown will solve everything.

Yet there is nothing new in Obama's latest energy proposals. It's all more of the same: more biofuels, more green cars, more subsidies for wind and solar.

 One of the most disingenuous phrases in Obama's Georgetown address was his pledge to help increase domestic oil and gas production. The simplest way to do this might be to ask oil and gas CEO's like Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil how the administration could help? How often has Obama invited Tillerson to the White House? When's the last time he asked for Tillerson's advice?

That advice, I suspect, would be to restore the annual appropriation of $4 billion in drilling incentives that Obama stripped from his 2012 budget. It might also include reining in the EPA's efforts to restrict hydraulic fracturing, including the agency's refusal to listen to scientific findings that confirm the safety of a Texas natural gas well that EPA is determined to shut down. It might include the long-standing efforts of American oil companies to explore and produce on the Alaskan North Slope and offshore in the Beaufort Sea, as well as offshore the East and West Coasts of the U.S. Finally, it might include an apology for completely shutting down energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Obama addressed none of these issues in his speech. What he did propose is astounding in its naiveté, if not in its hypocrisy.

The only thing the President had to say to energy companies was that they were not making use of two-thirds of the leases the already possess. This is an old canard. By now just about everyone knows that the reason leases are sitting idle is that gaining regulatory and environmental approval to drill takes decades. If one purchases a lease and is forced to wait 20 years before drilling, as has been the case offshore and in Alaska (where oil companies are still waiting for approval), the Interior Department will record the lease as "sitting idle." It is bizarre to hear Obama scolding oil companies for not drilling, when the President knows that he and his party are the main reason they have not been able to drill.

Instead of facilitating new drilling, the President suggested that the price of oil might be lowered by converting switchgrass to biofuel. The Obama administration has already pumped billions into boondoggles of this sort. None of them has produced a profit. Few of them, in fact, are still in existence. So the President's solution is to build more.

Another proposal, and one that involves even more government spending, is the goal of putting a million electric vehicles into operation by 2015. That would mean not just $7.5 billion in direct federal subsidies to purchasers, not counting funding for charging stations and subsidies from individual states. Actually, it would require a great deal more, since that level of subsidy has so far induced fewer than 1,000 Americans to purchase Chevy Volts. Perhaps doubling the subsidies would do the trick? Why not just have government purchase the cars and hand them over the neediest among us?

Jimmy Carter "solved" the energy crisis of his day by donning a wooly sweater, seating himself in front of a cozy fireplace, and lecturing the American people on energy savings. Obama's proposals are not all that much different -- only a lot more wasteful. Obama seems to have learned from his predecessor that Americans don't like the idea of shivering through the winter and carpooling to work with strangers, who for all one knows could be road-raged psychotics.

Obama has a better plan. End the nation's dependence on fossil fuels by doubling the use of wind and solar (from current .5% to 1% of our needs), subsidize electric cars (to a grand total of 1 million, or .8% of the 125 million cars on the road), and brew up a few gallons of biofuel from wood chips. At least you can't say the President is hitting the snooze button, not with all these brilliant plans in the works. He's wide awake, just delusional.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and article on American culture.
In a speech at Georgetown University on March 30, President Obama declared that "we cannot keep going from shock to trance...rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again." Obama meant these words to apply to his predecessors in office, among them Jimmy Carter, who famously suggested that the energy shortages of the 1970s might be solved if Americans would just don heavier sweaters. But Obama is hardly the most self-aware of American presidents -- if he were, he would realize how perfectly those words apply to his own energy policies.

For more than two years, Obama has been hitting the snooze button on energy. Through the Interior Department, EPA, and other agencies, he has carried out an unprecedented assault on all workable forms of energy from coal and oil to natural gas and nuclear power. Ever since he launched his campaign for the presidency in 2007, in fact, Obama has pandered to the alternative energy lobby, a well-funded group that continues to bankroll Democratic politicians.

Weeks before his election, Obama posted a video that proposed spending $150 billion on alternative energy while promising that the measures would make the country energy independent and create 5 million new jobs. To date, half of that $150 billion has been spent ($40 billion of it was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), but the nation is even more dependent on imported oil, and where are the jobs? 

The fact is that throughout his time on the national scene, Obama has been asleep at the wheel, particularly so on energy. Now that gas prices are spiking as a result of his policies, he thinks that an energy speech delivered to a friendly audience of liberal students at Georgetown will solve everything.

Yet there is nothing new in Obama's latest energy proposals. It's all more of the same: more biofuels, more green cars, more subsidies for wind and solar.

 One of the most disingenuous phrases in Obama's Georgetown address was his pledge to help increase domestic oil and gas production. The simplest way to do this might be to ask oil and gas CEO's like Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil how the administration could help? How often has Obama invited Tillerson to the White House? When's the last time he asked for Tillerson's advice?

That advice, I suspect, would be to restore the annual appropriation of $4 billion in drilling incentives that Obama stripped from his 2012 budget. It might also include reining in the EPA's efforts to restrict hydraulic fracturing, including the agency's refusal to listen to scientific findings that confirm the safety of a Texas natural gas well that EPA is determined to shut down. It might include the long-standing efforts of American oil companies to explore and produce on the Alaskan North Slope and offshore in the Beaufort Sea, as well as offshore the East and West Coasts of the U.S. Finally, it might include an apology for completely shutting down energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Obama addressed none of these issues in his speech. What he did propose is astounding in its naiveté, if not in its hypocrisy.

The only thing the President had to say to energy companies was that they were not making use of two-thirds of the leases the already possess. This is an old canard. By now just about everyone knows that the reason leases are sitting idle is that gaining regulatory and environmental approval to drill takes decades. If one purchases a lease and is forced to wait 20 years before drilling, as has been the case offshore and in Alaska (where oil companies are still waiting for approval), the Interior Department will record the lease as "sitting idle." It is bizarre to hear Obama scolding oil companies for not drilling, when the President knows that he and his party are the main reason they have not been able to drill.

Instead of facilitating new drilling, the President suggested that the price of oil might be lowered by converting switchgrass to biofuel. The Obama administration has already pumped billions into boondoggles of this sort. None of them has produced a profit. Few of them, in fact, are still in existence. So the President's solution is to build more.

Another proposal, and one that involves even more government spending, is the goal of putting a million electric vehicles into operation by 2015. That would mean not just $7.5 billion in direct federal subsidies to purchasers, not counting funding for charging stations and subsidies from individual states. Actually, it would require a great deal more, since that level of subsidy has so far induced fewer than 1,000 Americans to purchase Chevy Volts. Perhaps doubling the subsidies would do the trick? Why not just have government purchase the cars and hand them over the neediest among us?

Jimmy Carter "solved" the energy crisis of his day by donning a wooly sweater, seating himself in front of a cozy fireplace, and lecturing the American people on energy savings. Obama's proposals are not all that much different -- only a lot more wasteful. Obama seems to have learned from his predecessor that Americans don't like the idea of shivering through the winter and carpooling to work with strangers, who for all one knows could be road-raged psychotics.

Obama has a better plan. End the nation's dependence on fossil fuels by doubling the use of wind and solar (from current .5% to 1% of our needs), subsidize electric cars (to a grand total of 1 million, or .8% of the 125 million cars on the road), and brew up a few gallons of biofuel from wood chips. At least you can't say the President is hitting the snooze button, not with all these brilliant plans in the works. He's wide awake, just delusional.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and article on American culture.

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