In the Energy Debate between Palin and Obama...Obama Lost
You know we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices. If we're going to take control of our energy future, and can start avoiding these annual gas price spikes that happen every year when the economy starts getting better, world demand starts increasing, turmoil in the Middle East or some other parts of the world, if we're going to stop being at the mercy of these world events, then we need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy - oil, gas, wind, solar, and nuclear, and biofuels, and more.
President Obama made these remarks in February of 2012 at the University of Miami. The President was criticizing the longstanding argument of political rival Sarah Palin, who urges the nation to "drill, baby, drill."
Palin expounded on these sentiments in 2010:
Although the Left chooses to mock the mantra of "drill, baby, drill," and they ignorantly argue against the facts pertaining to the need for America to responsibly develop her domestic supply of natural resources, surely they can't argue the national security implications of relying on foreign countries to extract supplies that America desperately needs for industry, jobs, and security. Some of the countries we're now reliant upon and will soon be beholden to can easily use energy and mineral supplies as a weapon against us.
In 2011, in an interview with the CBS affiliate WTKR in Hampton Roads, Virginia, the president contradicted his own remarks suggesting that oil prices cannot be lowered by arguing:
We're talking to oil producers around the world and letting them know it's in their interest to make sure that high oil prices don't end up hurting the world economy.
Of course, in this case, anyone can increase drilling and lower oil prices -- as long as it is not the United States. In fact, while tightening the moratorium on the U.S. Gulf of Mexico drilling, the federal government provided money for foreign governments to use the same deep drilling techniques in South America to increase global oil supplies. The rhetorical license the Obama administration has to take all sides of this debate is an important political advantage.
Nonetheless, Palin has proven to be the more prescient and intelligent advocate on energy policy. Drilling in the United States is increasing dramatically; it has already transformed our economic outlook and almost everything we know about global geopolitical realities. Palin's simple energy creed portends the following stunning results:
1. The U.S. is on pace to become the largest producer of oil in the world by 2017 and will be an oil exporter by 2030 -- according to the New York Times!
2. The U.S. has taken an overwhelming global lead on the production of natural gas.
These shocking realities will transform American and global life in several important ways:
1. With natural gas, the United States is on target to become one of the first major industrial nations to meet the CO2 goals of Kyoto -- without ever becoming an official signatory. Natural gas replacement of Obama's "all of the above" strategy has dramatically reduced CO2 emissions in the United States to 1992 levels. It is quite possible that this trend will reduce CO2 to 1990 levels -- the goal of the Kyoto protocol on climate change. Currently planned power plant changes will reduce the levels below 1980 levels!
2. The abundance of natural gas has so lowered energy prices that the United States is poised to become a resurgent global manufacturing power. Energy costs are one of the most central and crucial aspects of manufacturing. The United States has lower energy costs than China and many other rival manufacturing nations, and those costs are headed lower. The unthinkable is happening: America will rise again as a manufacturing power in the course of this next mega-energy decade.
3. American energy production in oil and gas is booming the budgets of the production states into staggering surpluses! While the federal government continues sailing off every conceivable fiscal cliff imaginable, governments in states such as North Dakota and Texas are racking up billions of dollars in annual surpluses to their state treasuries. For 2012, Texas recorded an $8-billion surplus. That is expected to grow to $20 billion in 2013. The debate in the Lone Star legislature is what to do with all that extra money. Having escaped the energy "crucifixion"-fixated EPA, these states will serve as compelling counterarguments to the draconian federal vision of banning domestic production so that Middle East oil sheiks can make more money selling anti-fracking films such as Promised Land or buying TV channels from climate charlatans like Al Gore.
4. Previous norms of global oil production meant that Japan, China, Europe, and America were transferring approximately $1 trillion each year to dangerous governments in the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. Regardless of how the global price of oil is set, the increasing prospects of that $1 trillion being transferred to the pockets of American oil and natural gas industries suggests a complete transformation of global politics. The imperative to protect Middle East oil resources with American military power is diminished. The capacity to fund petro-genocide from Sudan to Iran is severely limited. Despite the president's insistence to the contrary, the American free market position on oil does jeopardize the global pricing scheme of oil in a way that could help every worthwhile global citizen. At present, a major portion of global supply is manipulated by a price cartel known as OPEC. The cartel is premised on the reality of controlling supply. That control is slipping away, and into the hands of nations such as Canada, the United States, and Mexico. With rational actors at the production helms, the potential for price spikes based on the irrational behavior of anti-Semitic warlords in Iran or terror-sympathetic Saudi sheiks is greatly diminished.
Even though the president apparently lost this energy debate to Sarah Palin, he was clearly right about one thing: the American people are not stupid. The American people have by way of their own ingenuity and hard work built a process for extracting oil and natural gas unanticipated by advanced energy gurus such as T. Boone Pickens. Pickens recently acknowledged that the abundance of natural gas means that energy alternatives such as wind are not economically viable. Predicting the future is difficult, but relying on the ingenuity and hard work of Americans has generally proven to be a safe bet -- you betcha!
Ben Voth is associate professor and chair of communication studies and director of debate at Southern Methodist University. This year's college debate topic focuses on the questions surrounding United States energy policy.