America's Energy Security
Lots of criticism on the left today against Obama's Energy Security Plan. Here, here, here, amongst other places. But most of this criticism is somewhat misplaced. Would it have been nice if the President had said "tomorrow I'm putting the smack down: no more carbon dioxide emissions!"? Sure! But in this political climate of overwhelming political opposition and the inability of the environmental community to counteract that, what we got isn't that bad, and could turn out to be quite good, actually. In his speech [video], he mentioned oil is going to run out, future oil production will be more expensive, price shocks interspersed with periods of complacency hurt American consumers, electrical cars and how and where batteries are produced and keeping the costs down, and that the best way to reduce gasoline costs is to conserve! That's a lot! Remember, this speech was not about averting global warming: the Congress has already nixed that one.
Let's go through the Fact Sheet point-by-point:
Expanding Safe and Responsible Domestic Oil and Gas Development and ProductionIn the end, these are things that the administration doesn't have that much control over: the price of oil goes up, more drilling occurs. That's what we've seen over the last few years. Anything but making sure it's done safely (which Obama has tried), and making sure it doesn't happen in wilderness areas or other unseemly places is out of the Administration's control. More or less. As we all know, whatever we begin to allow to be sucked out of offshore (onshore oil won't ever produce as much as hoped for) will only come out of there years from now and not last us very long. So the President can say that he's all for expanding production...nothing is going to change either way, barring another Deepwater Horizon incident. He walked a good line between "DRILL BABY DRILL" and "let's make sure we do this safely" here.
Securing Access to Diverse and Reliable Sources of Energy: The U.S. is acting in the international arena to moderate global oil demand and secure additional supplies of liquid fuels and clean energy. We are working with our international partners to increase natural gas supplies, replace oil with natural gas in power generation, and increase responsible oil production in a manner that ensures safety . We are also increasing sustainable bioenergy production, building a new international framework for nuclear energy, and promoting energy efficiency.This one is about helping other countries reduce their demand, thereby lowering prices worldwide. This is a good thing, as it will reduce commodities prices where those high prices really hurt: in poorer countries. Did I mention commodities...?
Developing Alternatives to Oil, Including Biofuels and Natural GasBiofuels. Yuck. I hate 'em. But considering the political corruption surrounding this subsidy...it's going to be difficult taking that away. So the best way of doing that is to propose a safe alternative: responsible natural gas production. Government information gathering and oversight is something that is sorely needed in this sector.
Cutting Costs at the Pump with More Efficient Cars and TrucksThis point includes increasing CAFE standards beyond what we currently have (up to 2016), and including trucks. This actually has a good chance of passing through Congress: the auto industry can't officially admit it, but they actually like the certainty behind a predictable regulation. And, if you couple increased drilling with increased CAFE standards, you get double the bang for the buck. This point also includes a tax credit for electric vehicles, which unfortunately has a good chance of failing in Congress, but it's worth a shot.
Leading by Example With the Federal FleetThis point is the real kicker. Government vehicles not including the military, consumed a total of 322 million gallons of gasoline in 2010! The US Postal Service, Homeland Security and Department of Justice (FBI) were top of the list of government consumers. The President has direct control over this: he can sign an executive order demanding government vehicles change. Moreover, once companies start making these alternative vehicles (natural gas- or gasoline-electric hybrids, etc.) for the government, they will be able to start making them available to the general public. And quite possibly at a lower price as the costs decrease with increased production.
The Federal government operates more than 600,000 fleet vehicles. We have already doubled the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet. Today, the President is calling for administrative action directing agencies to ensure that by 2015, all new vehicles they purchase will be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles.
Let's not try to knock this proposal: it's actually quite specific, and could do a lot of good while avoiding a lot of political nightmares in the short term.