SOTU Response: Fisking O’s Climate Spiel


PRESIDENT OBAMA: “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

RESPONSE: President Obama has the politics all wrong. In fact, Obama ran to the right of Romney on energy policy in 2012. That Obama, the one trying to get elected by the American people, was pro-fossil fuel (even coal), and he avoided talking about climate change. Only after he was elected to a second term did Obama make climate change a legacy issue. Now, he’s claiming that the “majority of the American people” want him to implement climate policies. Of course he is being disingenuous. If he believed this was true, he would have run on the issue in 2012. Instead, he ran from it.

“But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?”

I’m not sure what the president was trying to articulate when he said that 2015 is “even hotter” than 2014, which “wasn’t the warmest year on record.” There must have been some sort of teleprompter typo. (See here and here for my “denier” take on global warming.) His second claim, about “the energy of the future,” reminds me of how the Carter administration predicted that government programs would lead to solar power accounting for 20 percent of the nation’s electricity sector by 2000 (today it’s less than half of one percent). For more on the “energy of the future,” see the following response.

“Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.”

For starters, wind power is not “cheaper than dirtier, conventional power,” because the two can’t be compared. Wind cannot be relied on; as a result, it is inherently of less value than power sources whose output can be scheduled (and relied on) in advance.

Regarding those Americans with rooftop solar panels, their savings of “tens of millions of dollars” come at the expense of their fellow ratepayers and taxpayers. Moreover, in many jurisdictions, solar subsidies are resulting in the undercapitalization of grid infrastructure, which, if sustained, will threaten electric reliability.  

Frankly, I’ve no idea what the president is referring to when he speaks of tea partiers and environmentalists storing their own energy. Such battery technology simply doesn’t exist on a commercial scale.

Finally, Obama has no business using the first personal plural “we” when he boasts about falling oil imports and “carbon pollution,” both of which are ancillary effects of the American energy renaissance birthed by a technological breakthrough known as hydraulic fracturing. Booming U.S. oil and gas production has occurred in spite of Obama’s anti-energy policies, as is demonstrated by the fact that virtually all of the new production took place on state and private lands. On federal lands, production actually decreased during the Obama administration!

“Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.”

With this line, Obama is being conspicuously incoherent. Low gas prices engender more consumption, which is the cause of global warming, which Obama says is his number one priority. How can it be “not bad” for gas to be cheap? Quite obviously, the president is trying to have his cake, and eat it too.

“Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”

Presumably, these are the climate policies he intends to pursue in his final year in office. Details are sparse, but it seems that his proposal is to penalize fossil fuel production, and then to spend the resultant revenues on the communities that are harmed by the original anti-fossil fuel policy. More simply put, it seems his plan is to regulate communities into poverty, and then subsidize them back to prosperity. I don’t think this will work, for the same reasons that communism failed in East Germany.

“None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve – that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”

Free jobs! Free money! Planetary salvation! War is Peace!