Market News

 February 28, 2012
'All of the Above': Obama Names His Failed Presidency

 If we're going to take control of our energy future and can start avoiding these annual gas price spikes that happen every year --- when the economy starts getting better, world demand starts increasing, turmoil in the Middle East or some other parts of the world --- if we're going to avoid being at the mercy of these world events, we've got to have a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. Yes, oil and gas, but also wind and solar and nuclear and biofuels, and more.

President Obama gave a speech at the University of Miami on Thursday discussing his energy plan --- assuming that one can use the word "plan" to describe a strategy devoid of any judgment. Obviously, all-of-the-above = more of everything = more fossil fuels = Hell and High Water.

The president has come a long way from his 2008 declaration that this is "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Now it's more like "Après nous, le Déluge" (see "JPL bombshell: Polar ice sheet mass loss is speeding up, on pace for 1 foot sea level rise by 2050").

Just a year ago, "all-of-the-above" was actually a standard Republican talking point, so much so that Democrats routinely mocked it (see Markey slams oil-above-all" approach). It is certainly true that when the president says it, he means it, whereas the Republicans merely say it and then bitterly oppose all of the clean energy programs that Democrats put on the table. I'm not sure future generations will notice the difference.

Obama's all-of-the-above energy speech took a none-of-the-above approach to environmental problems: It ignored them all, including the most important of them all, global warming.

Obama is currently in the midst of a failed presidency from a historical perspective because of his abandonment of the climate issue, which is the only issue future generations are going to care about if we don't act now, as I've said many times.

Obama will probably get only one serious shot at redemption, the grand bargain on tax and the deficit at the end of this year (see "Bipartisan Support Grows for Carbon Price as Part of Debt Deal"). Speeches like this provide no evidence whatsoever that Obama even understands the stakes anymore.

Here are two other places in the speech where he repeats his new slogan:

OBAMA: But over the long term, an all-of-the-above energy strategy requires us having the right priorities. We've got to have the right incentives in place. I'll give you an example. Right now, $4 billion of your tax dollars subsidize the oil industry every year --- $4 billion. They don't need a subsidy. They're making near-record profits. These are the same oil companies that have been making record profits off the money you spend at the pump for several years now. How do they deserve another $4 billion from taxpayers and subsidies?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Preach it, Mr. President!
OBAMA: I said this at the State of the Union --- a century of subsidies to the oil companies is long enough. (Applause.) It's time to end taxpayer giveaways to an industry that has never been more profitable; double down on clean energy industries that have never been more promising --- that's what we need to do. (Applause.) This Congress needs to renew the clean energy tax credits that will lead to more jobs and less dependence on foreign oil.

The potential of a sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy is all around us. Here in Miami, 2008, Miami became the first major American city to power its city hall entirely with solar and renewable energy. Right here in Miami. (Applause.) The modernization of your power grid so that it wastes less energy is one of the largest projects of its kind in the country. On a typical day, the wind turbine at the Miami-Dade Museum can meet about 10 percent of the energy needs in a South Florida home, and the largest wind producer in the country is over at Juno Beach. Right here at this university, your work is helping manufacturers save millions of dollars in energy bills by making their facilities more energy efficient.
Preach it?

This is politics over principle pure and simple. Cutting a few billion dollars to the uber-profitable fossil fuel industry is a great applause line, but it'd be like making your entire anti-smoking cutting subsidies to the tobacco industry.

Let me end with Salon's Andrew Leonard on the speech:

However, on the single most important component of any long-term energy policy strategy --- a comprehensive carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that would force investment away from fossil fuel exploitation and into renewable energy --- Obama's record is abysmal. One can argue that legislation aimed at restricting greenhouse gas emissions never would have had any chance at passing Congress, but that doesn't change the fact that Obama dedicated zero political capital to the challenge. Quite the opposite: The longer Obama has been in office, the less he has mentioned climate change. In his speech at Miami, I didn't hear him say the words once. Imagine that: a speech on energy policy that did not touch on the most important energy issue on the planet.

Obama launched some vigorous attacks at his Republican opponents in his speech, but his own record of simultaneously touting enhanced oil production while promising to cut subsidies to oil companies, promising long-term relief on gas prices while ignoring the long-term challenge of climate change, mocking the "drill, drill, drill" "bumper sticker" of the GOP while touting a we-can-have-it-all "all-of-the-above" energy exploitation smorgasbord, exposes his own energy stance as fundamentally political. His speech was nowhere near as gratuitously hypocritical as the blatant falsehoods spewed by his opponents, but he still proved himself unwilling to grapple with the real menace: High gas prices are not the problem. Higher temperatures are.

Preach That