Barack Obama's energy policy
Platitudes from the president
Mar 31st 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | From The Economist print edition
FOR 40-odd years now, as Barack Obama lamented on March 30th, American politicians have banged on endlessly about the evils of America's dependence on imported oil, without doing very much about it. It was time, he declared, to change that, with a package of initiatives that would cut America's oil imports by a third within a decade, according to the White House's calculations. Unfortunately, however, Mr Obama's scheme seems doomed to go the same way as all the brave talk from his predecessors, not to mention his own rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Mr Obama's plan has four main strands: increasing domestic production of oil, boosting the use of biofuels and natural gas as substitutes, encouraging the spread of electric cars and making petrol-powered vehicles more efficient. He also chucked into the mix his "clean energy standard", a scheme to promote less polluting forms of electricity generation, even though it has nothing to do with oil imports (energy generation relies on coal, gas, nuclear or renewables, but not on oil, which is used almost exclusively for transport, heating and industry.)
None of this is new. The clean-energy standard was first wheeled out in Mr Obama's state-of-the-union speech in January, and is anyway only a rehashed version of a much older proposal to promote renewable energy, with nuclear power and natural gas bolted on to broaden its appeal. The administration was already working on a fresh series of ever more demanding fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles for when the current lot run out in 2016. Mr Obama had also previously pledged to nurture growth in domestic oil production, to counter Republican cries of "Drill, baby, drill."
As for biofuels, the government has been subsidising them for decades, and the Department of Energy is already lending money to the sort of high-tech but handout-dependent plants that the president says he wants more of. Even talk of encouraging natural-gas vehicles is nothing new: T. Boone Pickens, an irrepressible oilman who is now an apostle of gas and wind power, has buttonholed half of Congress, and anyone else who will listen, on the subject.
Worse, those parts of the president's plan that need congressional approval—the clean-energy standard, more subsidies, extra funding for research on whizz-bang energy technology—will never receive it. The Republicans who control the House are dead set against anything that smacks of greenery, not to mention anything that would add to spending at a time when they are trying to take an axe to it. They have already ruled out the president's signature energy policy: a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. They are also trying to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency. The best the president can hope to do is hold the line, and preserve the EPA's existing authority over emissions. So it is hard to see his recycled list of proposals as anything more than a reassurance to the environmentally minded, and to Americans fretting about rising fuel prices, that the president feels their pain—unlike those nasty Republicans.
CONSULTEN, OPINEN , ESCRIBAN .
Rodrigo González Fernández
Diplomado en "Responsabilidad Social Empresarial" de la ONU
Diplomado en "Gestión del Conocimiento" de la ONU
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