The Obama administration has promised from the outset to articulate and develop an ‘all of the above’ energy policy. At first blush it sounds good; but one need only remember how Republicans, during the last administration, were chided by opponents for not developing a transparent and comprehensive energy policy which included renewables. Not surprisingly, many of these same individuals were very pleased to hear that the President would develop a policy that, at least as the name implies, would take advantage of all of our natural resources. He made a commitment to that effort during the latest State of the Union. Now, three years into the Obama administration, has the president lived up to his ‘all of the above’ promise?
The president’s supporters point to the administration’s efforts to boost domestic renewable energy sources. His detractors, of which there are many regarding energy policy, point to evidence that the president isn’t serious about all forms of energy, and has instead undertaken a policy of demonizing tradition means of energy production. In 2010, for example, the president sounded a call to ‘end our dependence on fossil fuels.’
Today, the Obama administration is pushing Congress to federally support wind manufacturers that would generate more ‘clean energy’ sources. The president insists the more than 500 facilities being built in 43 states would provide jobs to thousands to American workers and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
To support his ‘green, renewable and clean energy’ agenda, the president also criticizes fossil fuels, arguing that drilling for new oil throughout the United States will neither solve our nation’s energy problems nor lead to lower prices at the pump. However, America’s natural gas drilling boom has in fact done just that. By increasing production by approximately 11%, natural gas prices have fallen dramatically, by almost 50%.
While one can attempt to diminish this remarkable decline in price by citing factors such as a warmer than usual winter in the Northeast, there is little doubt among economists that increased supply (or decreased supply from volatile areas such as Iran) has a marked and almost disproportionate effect on market pricing.
Clean energy has a nice ring to it and, after all, we should all be good stewards of our environment. But despite all the rhetoric, it is difficult to actually define what constitutes ‘clean energy.’ Is natural gas ‘clean energy’ because it results in approximately 42% lower emissions than traditional coal? Does clean coal qualify? Nuclear energy was gaining momentum as a near zero emission fuel source right up until the Japanese tsunami. Should we abandon pursuit of nuclear energy, or should we just learn how to build better facilities?
The government can maintain a level playing field by removing red tape and needless regulations that hamper the infusion of private investment in our energy sector. Rewarding industries where serious attempts are made to reduce carbon footprints is a good idea, but improvements in technology, carbon emissions, and pricing will naturally determine which sources are more economically sustainable. The American economy has largely been advanced and sustained by inexpensive and reliable forms of energy, and these traditional forms cannot be jettisoned on a whim in favor of ‘clean energy;’ rather, an ‘all of the above’ energy policy is required to power our economy moving forward.
Regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats occupy the White House, there is room at the table for everyone. The Obama administration’s success will be measured by whether it can fulfill its promise of inclusiveness by implementing a comprehensive energy policy that acknowledges the strengths of all forms of energy and recognizes the resulting value of each in our economy based upon availability and cost.