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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bush's Energy Plan: Drilling Your Way Out of a Hole

Let's start with shiny new Senator Jim Webb, giving the democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

Via Americablog:

...[T]his is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

In past SOTU addresses, we've been promised hydrogen fuel cells, renewable energy from switchgrass, and an end to America's addiction to oil. Given that the president had a Republican congress for four years, there's really no excuse for our present situation. We use more foreign oil now than ever before. Admitting you have a problem may be the first step away from addiction, but it isn't going to get you very far unless you actually do something about it.

Think Progress:

President Bush has pledged to reduce our energy dependence in every State of the Union he has delivered since taking office. At the same time, the United States has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil, from 58 percent of oil consumed in the U.S. in 2000 to 70 percent in September 2006. U.S. dependence on OPEC nations for oil imports “has risen to its highest level in 15 years.” By focusing on expanding domestic exploration, he perpetuates our dependence on oil.
[ThinkProgress, 1/3/07; Department of Energy; Financial Times, 1/2/07]

So much for that then. Think Progress was definitely the place to follow the SOTU; Bush would make a point and they'd post the debunk in minutes. They must've gotten the advance copy sent to the press.

As Webb pointed out, this is the first time he's given these promises to a congress completely controlled by Democrats. In other words, this will be the first time that he has no excuse.

Yesterday, I posted an idea for greening government that would go a long way toward greening the energy market by increasing demand. Bush, as a died in the wool supply-sider, concentrated entirely on production. But no one's going to produce anything if they don't know if there's anyone to buy it. Check it out:

White House:

It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. (Applause.) We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. (Applause.) We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol -- (applause) -- using everything from wood chips to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We make the stuff and people start buying it -- not extremely realistic. The specifics of the plan aren't any more encouraging -- lots and lots about production, almost nothing about consumption. And no call for capping carbon emissions.

America Will Reach The President's Twenty In Ten Goal By:

-Increasing The Supply Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels By Setting A Mandatory Fuels Standard To Require 35 Billion Gallons Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels In 2017 – Nearly Five Times The 2012 Target Now In Law. In 2017, this will displace 15 percent of projected annual gasoline use.

-Reforming And Modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards For Cars And Extending The Current Light Truck Rule. In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.

All while increasing drilling for oil:

The President's Plan To Strengthen America's Energy Security Also Includes:

-Stepping Up Domestic Oil Production In Environmentally Sensitive Ways.

-Doubling The Current Capacity Of The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) To 1.5 Billion Barrels By 2027.

You may not know this, but the US is already the third largest oil producer in the world (8.2 million barrels per day). It's extremely unlikely that any new drilling would increase production by any more than a fraction of a percent. But Bush is an oil man, Cheney's an oil man, and drilling for the sake of drilling always looks good to them. Besides, if we're really going to reduce consumption to 20%, wouldn't increasing the SPR to 1.5 billion barrels be kind of pointless? If we decrease consumption as much as the president says he wants to, we effectively increase the SPR as a percentage of all reserves by 80% -- why wouldn't that be enough when we're supposedly moving away from oil? Why double it?

Bush may find that the promises made in the State of the Union aren't just happy talk anymore. People are going to take him up on it -- and they're going to have their own ideas as well. Those ideas need to include caps and making the federal government the major consumer of alternative energy and alternative fuel vehicles.

Bush's plan is a hodgepodge of good, bad, and pointless ideas. He shouldn't be too surprised to find a plan that's been pruned of the bad and the pointless and expanding on the good on his desk, waiting to be signed into law.


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