Jay Reding.com

Obama’s Anti-Energy Policy

Robert Samuelson has a great piece on President Obama’s counterproductive bias against domestic oil and gas production in favor of unrealistic “green” jobs:

In 2007, wind and solar generated less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity. Even a tenfold expansion will leave their contribution small. By contrast, oil and natural gas now provide two-thirds of Americans’ energy. They will dominate consumption for decades. Any added oil produced here will mostly reduce imports; extra natural gas will mostly displace coal in electricity generation. Neither threatens any anti-global warming program that Congress might adopt.

Encouraging more U.S. production also aids economic recovery, because the promise of “green jobs” is wildly exaggerated. Consider. In 2008, the oil and gas industries employed 1.8 million people. Jobs in the solar and wind industries are reckoned (by their trade associations) to be 35,000 and 85,000, respectively. Now do the arithmetic: A 5 percent rise in oil jobs (90,000) approaches a doubling for wind and solar (120,000). Modest movements, up or down, in oil will swamp “green” jobs.

Samuelson assumes that the White House is interested in common sense—they’re not. What the White House cares about is what all politicians care about—catering to their constituencies. The reason why Obama does not favor more domestic energy is because there’s no political upside to it for him. Obama can’t afford to annoy the environmentalist lobby that plays to American’s worse environmental fears. If he did, he’d risk losing political support.

Even though domestic energy exploration makes sense in terms of energy policy, national security, economics, and even environmentally, none of that means anything. It won’t play well politically, so it is dead on arrival.

That’s the way our government works in the 21st Century. For all the talk about “hope” and “change” the Obama Administration is as nakedly political as any other, and a politically unpopular program will not be enacted no matter how beneficial the results, and a policy that is economically ruinous but politically popular will always win out. It’s Reding’s Second Law of Public Policy—the best policy will always lose out to the most politically popular policy.

President Obama could show real leadership by dramatically increasing domestic energy productions. But “drill baby drill” was the motto of the other side, and with the worldwide recession pushing oil prices down, there won’t be a serious political demand for more domestic energy until the next crisis hits and it’s far too late.

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