My latest op-ed in Pajamas Media on the president’s State of the Union address.
President Obama’s State of the Union address last week left a lot to be desired. Lisa Fritsch summed it up well on this site, writing, “Obama’s speech […] was focused far too much on lofty goals than the nitty-gritty we need to refloat our ailing ship of state.” In fact, in two specific areas his soaring rhetoric belied reality and misrepresented our nation’s future security.
First, in calling for the “reinvention” of our domestic energy policy, the president issued a challenge rooted in ideology rather than grounded in a clear understanding of America’s current and future energy needs. This is especially troubling because his goal flies in the face of science and the free market. He called for voters to “join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”
He did hedge in that call by including both nuclear energy and natural gas in his list of “clean energy sources” — good, but not enough to satisfy the all-or-nothing adherents to the remainder of his list: wind, solar, and clean coal. (In fact, even the clean coal entry is dismaying to some.) So until our government officially opines as to what energy sources it deems “clean” and which it doesn’t, we can expect a lot of political wrangling and economic uncertainty when it comes to investing in new energy sources. Those things make it hard to jump aboard when the president requests that we all “get behind this innovation” of “clean” energy.
A quick review of current statistics and future projections, moreover, offers a stark contrast to the president’s wish.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), overall energy demand worldwide will increase by 49 percent by 2035. Given this fact, renewable energies such as solar are far too expensive — and their technological applications still far too cumbersome — for them to even come close to meeting the president’s challenge. The EIA affirms that “most renewable generation technologies are not economically competitive with fossil fuels over the projection period” of 2007-2035.
Plus, one of the only two renewable energy sources deemed viable up until then is hydropower. But the president didn’t even present it as an option, and many environmental hard-liners want us to dismantle hydropower dams, not build more of them. Furthermore, by the time we get to 2035, the world will demand roughly 110.6 million barrels of oil per day — far more than the roughly 88 million barrels we currently consume every day.
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