Latest posts by George David Banks (see all)
- The Unintended Consequences of Energy Mandates and Subsidies on America’s Civil Nuclear Fleet - May 30, 2013
- How the American Consumer Got Saddled with the RFS and Why it Needs to Change - February 17, 2013
- The Decline of America’s Civil Nuclear Industry and its Impact on Our National Security - February 9, 2013
We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.
– President Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention, September 6, 2012.
After nearly four years in the White House, it’s disturbing to think that the President has failed to learn an incredibly important point regarding America’s energy security – wind and solar power aren’t substitutes for oil.
Last year, about 3 percent of our electricity was generated by wind and solar, compared to 67 percent for coal and natural gas, 19 percent for nuclear energy, and 8 percent for hydropower. Oil only accounted for a paltry 1 percent of electricity generation – leaving little to be gained with a fuel switch to wind and solar power.
And what about powering cars with electricity from wind and solar?
In 2011, fewer than 20,000 all-electric or plug-in electric cars were sold in the United States out of total light-vehicle sales of 12.8 million. That’s a miniscule 0.20 percent (1/5 of one percent) of last year’s market. Assuming a wind and solar share of 3 percent of the electricity sector, only .005 percent of cars sold last year would benefit from the electricity produced by wind and solar farms. For those of you who don’t want to do the math, that’s 600 cars out of 12.8 million, and that’s probably an optimistic scenario.
But yet, during the Democratic National Convention and in front of an audience of 35.7 million Americans, the President strongly implied that we reduced our oil imports by 1 million barrels a day because the country doubled its use of renewable energy and built wind turbines and long-lasting batteries.
How could the President, who is a scholar of constitutional law, make such a mistake over and over again?
Certainly, the vast majority of Americans understand that they don’t fill their tanks up with electricity. Why doesn’t the President?
Perhaps, we should give the President the benefit of the doubt that he simply skipped the energy security briefing on how we power our cars. Or conceivably he’s received bad counsel from his top advisers. After all, his own Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu notoriously called for more than doubling gasoline prices in the United States to the levels suffered by Europeans. It’s worth mentioning that Secretary Chu doesn’t own a car and is driven to work by his security detail, according to an Energy Department press secretary. So doubling the price of gasoline wouldn’t be any skin off his nose.
Clearly, there appears to be an epidemic of ignorance related to energy issues in the Obama campaign.
According to democrats.org, a website run by the Democratic National Committee:
President Obama knows we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices or a quick-fix solution to our energy needs. That’s why he and Democrats are focused on developing all of America’s natural resources—domestic oil, gas, wind, solar and biofuels—and encouraging fuel efficiency so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil over time.” (Bold italics added for emphasis)
Perhaps, the last two words “over time” actually mean “long after all of us are dead.”
And it doesn’t stop there.
Many Democrats, particularly President Obama, use the “link” to attack federal government subsidies to the oil industry.
But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”
– President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 24, 2012.
Here again, the President ignores the limitations of wind and solar and suggests that increasing federal support of clean energy is a better plan for improving energy security than giving incentives to the domestic oil industry. This is despite the fact that recent estimates show that the United States is endowed with 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil, which is enough to replace Persian Gulf imports for the next 50 years.
Regarding oil “subsidies”, the President doesn’t wade into the details, but he frequently argues for the removal of all tax provisions that benefit production – even those that support the independent producers and small businesses here in America. If you were to listen to the tone of the President’s rhetoric, you might assume that these tax incentives solely benefit the “greedy” Big Oil companies and their global operations. Not so.
Two of the most important tax provisions only benefit domestic oil production – Intangible Drilling Costs (IDC) and Percentage Depletion. And who is responsible for the majority of oil drilled here in America? Not Big Oil. More than 18,000 independent companies – with an average size of 11 employees – drill 95 percent of U.S. oil and natural gas wells, accounting for 67 percent of domestic production.
Together, the IDC and Percentage Depletion cost the taxpayer about $25 billion over ten years, according to the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank. Contrast the cost of these tax benefits to the wind production tax credit (PTC), which President Obama supports enthusiastically.
A one-year extension of the wind PTC is estimated to cost the American taxpayer roughly $12 billion. Given the fact that wind power does not displace foreign oil – unlike domestic production, what would most Americans see as the better policy for reducing our dependence on oil from the Middle East?
This begs a more important question: Do we really think it’s possible that President Obama and his advisers live in a fantasy world of wind and solar farms fueling cars? Or is there something else going on?
Maybe this messaging could be a purposeful misrepresentation of the facts to the American people in order to backdoor a global warming agenda or line the pockets of crony capitalists working in the wind and solar industries. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
But one thing is clear.
President Obama does not care enough about improving the country’s energy security to do his homework and base his policy off facts and not fiction. When the President talks about improving the country’s educational system, he needs to look in the mirror and start with himself. And given his track record on the issue, the President has a long, long way to go to achieve a passing grade.