Friday, March 16, 2012

President Obama's Snake Oil

President Obama,  in campaign mode since his inauguration , recently defended his administration's energy policy and attacked Republican critics.

He mocks the Republican plan to increase drilling by claiming that we only have 2% of the world's oil reserves while we consume 20% of the world's oil. He confirmed with daughter Sasha that these facts constitute a numbers problem.

But there is another numbers problem. The 2% figure he cites covers only the 22 billion barrels in those fields in which oil drilling is currently taking place. As his own Department of Energy points out, however, the United States has 430 billion barrels of oil recoverable with today's technology. As the DOE report adds, these figures do not include the estimated 1.4 trillion barrels of shale oil.

The President also claims that drilling has actually increased during his administration. As many pundits have noted already, most of the new drilling results from permits issued under the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Finally, the President mocked the Republican affinity for fossil fuels. He compared them to flat earthers and people who have no vision for the future. He dropped the names of Edison, Gates, and Jobs as American innovators who made their vision of the future today's reality.  Of course, we did not stop making adding machines, calculators, and typewriters while waiting for Gates and Jobs to perfect personal computers and the software that drives them. Neither did we stop using traditional lighting while anticipating Edison's light bulb.

The President also characterized the Republican call for increased drilling as "the same script for thirty years"  likening it to a bad movie rerun. For thirty years, however, the Democrats have opposed these Republican calls for expansion of drilling. Instead, they argued for alternative energy sources to fossil fuels.  The Democrats and their environmentalist clients claimed that drilling would have no immediate impact on prices or energy independence.

While that was true, expansion of drilling over the last thirty years may have impacts prices and energy independence today.

So when the president makes similar claims today that drilling will not immediately impact prices, maybe we should ask what he is doing to prevent high oil prices ten years from now.

If he deflects such question by pointing to the promise of alternative fuels, he needs to be reminded that Democrats have been saying reading  that script for thirty years.

Someday we may find cost effective alternatives to fossil fuels. Right now, however, the science that will yield such alternatives remains in the distant future.

Republicans, unlike Democrats, know the difference between science . . .  and science fiction.

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