Very few of the above
Obama’s energy policy is rather picky

Pete Souza/White House

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk as they walk up a staircase in the West Wing of the White House on April 3, 2012.

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    The Tyranny of Clichés
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Article Highlights

  • "President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy isn’t a policy change, it’s just a lie." - @JonahNRO

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  • New rule from EPA will force 32 mostly coal-fired power plants to shut down and threaten to close 36 others

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  • The real impulse behind the war on #coal is the belief that we need to stamp it out to reduce global warming

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In his speech before the Newspapers Association of America/American Society of News Editors Wednesday, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused the president of changing positions to get reelected.

For instance, Romney charged that “as president,” Obama “delayed the development of our oil and coal and natural gas. Now, as candidate Obama, he says he favors an energy policy that adopts an all-of-the-above approach.”

That’s not exactly right.

Yes, Obama still says he’s in favor of an all-of-the-above energy policy, but that hasn’t slowed him down in his pursuit of his very-few-of-the-above policy.

Back in 2008, Senator Obama explained that under his energy plan, electricity prices would “necessarily skyrocket.”

The explosion in costs wouldn’t be a bug of his plan either, but a feature. The idea under so-called cap-and-trade is that if you tax fossil fuels, you will, over time, reduce the use of fossil fuels. It’s really basic economics. One wishes the president saw the logic of this proposition when it came to taxing business and investment as well. But that’s a topic for a different column.

The president’s defenders have long complained that it’s unfair to dredge up this old soundbite, particularly in a climate of gas-price outrage, because Republicans — and a lot of Democrats — successfully prevented cap-and-trade from ever becoming law.

Absent cap-and-trade, they claim, he is pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy. Coal! Oil! Natural gas! Solar! Wind! And, of course, algae, algae, algae! We’re doing it all, Obama says.

Just the other day, Vice President Joe Biden insisted that “our energy policy’s the best it’s ever been.” Why? Because, he said, we’re doing “everything,” i.e., all of the above, to make energy affordable.

Except that’s simply not true. It’s not remotely true. A new rule from the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, according to an Associated Press analysis, will force 32 mostly coal-fired power plants to shut down and threaten to close 36 others. Moreover, the new “blackout” rule will effectively prevent the creation of any new coal-fired plants in America unless they adopt new technologies that will make it unprofitable to burn coal at all. So there’s that.

Now, I don’t have much affection for coal. I think mountaintop-removal mining should be phased out. But you can’t really say you’re pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy, or deny that you want energy prices to go up, and declare war on coal at the same time.

"Romney is right to suggest that Obama is saying things he doesn’t believe in order to get reelected. But, at least on energy, he’s not taking a new position." - Jonah GoldbergThe inanity of all this is that the real impulse behind the war on coal is the belief that we need to stamp it out to reduce global warming. But even if you believe the full suite of global-warning-crisis complaints, the policy is nuts, because the net result will be to lower the price of coal and increase the amount we sell to places like China. Is it better if we burn the coal here, with cleaner emissions and more jobs for Americans, or there, with dirtier emissions?

But forget coal. What about oil? The president killed the Keystone XL pipeline. After the BP oil spill, his administration overruled its own panel of experts to implement a moratorium on offshore drilling (while suggesting it was the experts’ idea). Obama wants to revoke “subsidies” for oil companies, which are in fact the same tax write-offs that any business gets. He takes credit for the increase in oil drilling on U.S. soil but leaves out that drilling on federal and American Indian lands has gone down under his administration. He also forgets to mention that he opposes drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast and the Florida coast, and anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or the Rockies.

When those resources aren’t exploited, oil rigs don’t sit and rust, they go to other countries (often ones with fewer environmental safeguards) to find oil elsewhere — oil we will then buy.

Romney is right to suggest that Obama is saying things he doesn’t believe in order to get reelected. But, at least on energy, he’s not taking a new position. When you’re the incumbent president, you can say that your position is whatever you want. But the truth of the matter isn’t determined by what you say, but by what you do. And judged against what he is doing, Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy isn’t a policy change, it’s just a lie.

Jonah Goldberg is a visiting fellow at the AEI, editor-at-large of National Review Online, and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés.

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About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

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    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-7165
    Email: jonah.goldberg@aei.org

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