Those who haven’t seen my writing elsewhere may be surprised to learn that I’m a self-described proud, Liberal progressive Democrat who enthusiastically supports President Obama. Last night’s speech had a lot in it that I liked–and I’m well aware that many of my readers will disagree. But like I say, it takes all kinds…
He spoke on energy and climate–and some of the things he said were to my liking, while others I disagree with. So let’s favorably Fisk that part of the State of the Union Address.
“Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.”
Nope. Nanotechnology, biotechnology and robotics hold more promise than investments in American energy. I don’t care if all the solar panels in the world are made in China and/or Belgium. I care how much they cost, how much they’re subsidized and where they are put up. Same with wind turbines and biofuel. We’ve placed our bet on intellectual property–there’s not enough of it involved in renewable energy to power our economy.
“After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”
All true and all a good thing. I join our President in congratulating America. So, where do we go from here?
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
I agree we must do more to combat climate change. Not because we’re convinced it’s a planet buster, but because it makes good common dollars and cents to do so. However, it’s trivially true that 12 of the last 15 years were the hottest on record–but the record is short and temperatures have ‘stalled’, to use the term of James Hansen. And I think it’s just sad that the President is citing Xtreme Weather in defiance of the IPCC, which says there is no connection between them and climate change. That is the overwhelming judgment of science, Mr. President–and you’re ignoring it. You have a lot of company, however.
“The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
I’m sure the President will use executive authority via the EPA to continue the nudge from coal to natural gas, and what incentives he can muster to encourage renewables. He’s already been doing it for four years and there’s no real reason for him to stop. And I like a market-based solution as well. I prefer a carbon tax, but I also supported cap and trade until my party loaded it up with so much pork as to make it unrecognizable. Sigh.
Let me describe a carbon tax that would be effective: Start with a low fee–I suggest $12/ton. Make the carbon tax revenue neutral with the money raised used to lower Social Security taxes. We do want this to pass, right? Incorporate a review every decade with the power to raise, lower or rescind the tax based on objective measurements of our emissions and global temperatures.
Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
Except for the last sentence, I largely agree. With the proviso that we locate renewables where they are appropriate, not convenient. As for us keeping up with the Joneses, that part of it is just a vanity contest. I don’t care where it’s manufactured. Heck, most of the jobs are in installation anyhow.
“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.”
I want more specifics about understanding what’s in fracking chemicals and better plotting of potentially affected aquifers. I’m not sure we need to be rushing so fast for natural gas–especially when the market is glutted.
Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.
What’s not to like about any of this? The only thing I don’t like in this last paragraph is we could and should have been doing it during the Eisenhower administration.
So–these are my top of mind reactions to a very effective speech from a President I support. I think this part of the speech had more that I disagreed with than any other section. I agreed with him about what he said on the economy, immigration, gun control and foreign affairs.
But nobody bats a thousand.