My friends, John McCain’s pronouncements in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination as president were entirely bogus when it comes to energy.
Unfortunately, so were Barack Obama’s when he accepted the Democratic nomination.
Both candidates tout plans for “energy independence,” while neither actually defines the term. What exactly is “energy independence?” Is it zero imports of crude oil? Is it less reliance on imports than today’s levels? Neither candidate can tell us what he means or how to measure the results of his proposed policies.
In his stolid acceptance speech, McCain praised his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for tackling “tough problems like energy independence and corruption.” Huh? Palin, according to the record, has favored domestic oil production. What Alaskan politician would not adopt that policy? How does that reduce imports in a fungible world market? How was that reform?
McCain’s approach to energy policy is predictable and conventional. “We will drill new wells offshore, and we’ll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development of use of flex fuel, hybrid, and electric automobiles.”
Yawn. Nothing new here. Nothing that promises any immediate or long-term reduction in gasoline prices, which is what I suspect most Americans want from a government energy policy, and which is impossible for any president to accomplish. Drilling for oil and gas offshore and in Alaska could produce new supplies of fossil fuels, but not anytime soon, according to the experts, and not in great quantities. It’s worthy, but hardly earth-shaking.
New domestic supplies would only add fuels at the margin of the markets. Pump price reduction? Maybe a few cents. Worth doing but not a big deal for most Americans.
New nuclear plants won’t impact our imports of crude oil unless plug-in hybrid cars can come to the market far faster and far cheaper than most experts believe possible. Plug-ins so far are too expensive to win a significant share of the North American market. They would not back out significant amounts of oil in the near or medium term, in the most optimistic scenarios.
McCain slammed Obama unfairly, charging that the Democratic nominee thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. Not so. Obama said he favors more exploration for domestic oil and gas, and supports an increase in nuclear power. Obama said he bases those policies in the context of a “balanced” energy policy, whatever the heck that means. He’s trying to finesse the public support for offshore drilling and more nukes with the green opposition.e’s trying toH Obama’s support for drilling and nukes may be grudging, but it is on the record.
Obama’s approach to energy policy is every bit as feckless as McCain’s. Neither is willing to acknowledge the reality on the ground, that fossil energy is the foreseeable future, and it comes from folks we don’t much like or trust, such as ugoHugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, and the Saudi monarchy. We’ve got to learn to live with the reality.
In his acceptance speech, Obama said, “I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.” Good luck, and he didn’t quantify the investment (although that wouldn’t make a difference, since there is no prospect that any of these investments would pay off).
Obama added that he will put “150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy, wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels….” This is empty, and typically Democratic, rhetoric. The president can’t make investment decisions. That’s up to Congress and the market. The political lay of the land suggests that these sorts of investments, which would likely yield negative or tiny positive returns, won’t occur anytime soon and probably would not have much impact. A presidential candidate can’t truly promise an investment in any priority for a year ahead, let along a decade, when there is a limited prospect that he or she will be able to control the government or the market.
Even if the Democrats win the White House and gain ouxse Hwider margins in the House and Senate this year, Obama won’t have an easy path to implementing what he describes as his energy policy. It took a Republican White House and Congress almost a decade to enact the party’s empty-headed approach to energy policy, the 2005 Energy Policy Act. That law has yet to demonstrate a beneficial impact on U.S. and world energy markets.
The truth is that energy, as is the case for most major economic issues, is far beyond the control of national governments. The White House and Congress can’t manage even domestic supply and demand for oil and gas, let alone that of emerging super economies in India and China. Nor can the U.S. control investment decisions in Russia, China, India, Australia, or Canada.
Then there is the bogus issue of climate change, where both McCain and Obama are off track. Thinking that the world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in a futile attempt to control the climate of the planet, while reducing energy prices at the same time, is preposterous. People who believe this are smoking intellectual wacky weed.
But those pipe dreams appeal to many Americans, who would rather face fantasy than fact. Both McCain and Obama make this lame “we can have it all” pitch, hoping that no one will notice the inherent contradiction that belies the economic engine of supply-and-demand. I suspect they know they are lying, but they are, after all, politicians.
When it comes to energy policy, neither McCain nor Obama make any kind of energy sense. At the final analysis, neither administration would make much difference when it comes to energy policy. Both candidates’ proposals are incoherent and irrational. Just like those that preceded them.