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On Energy Policy, Debate Obama Bears No Resemblance to Real-Life Obama

by William Yeatman on October 17, 2012

in Blog

O…M…G! On energy policy, President Obama sounded better than Romney during the debate last night.

Of course, “sounded” is the operative word, as the President’s energy discourse wholly discounted reality. Here on planet earth, his administration is waging a war on energy. Oil and gas production is booming—but only on state and private lands unencumbered by the red tape and bureaucratic foot-dragging that has inhibited drilling on federal lands. In the last year, President Obama’s EPA promulgated two regulations that ban new coal-fired power plants (as if one wasn’t enough?). And when it’s not opposing energy that works, the Obama administration throws good money after bad trying to cultivate “green jobs” at companies that cannot compete without an everlasting inflow of taxpayer help.

That’s the real President Obama. Last night’s President Barack Obama was nothing like him. Debate Obama was an unabashed supporter of fossil fuel energy. ”Here’s a roundup of choice phrases:

On Oil, President Obama compared his record favorably to that of a Texas petroleum executive:

“We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my — the previous president was an oil man.”

On Natural Gas, President Obama can’t get enough!:

“We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas…

…. And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically. We’re encouraging it and working with the industry.”

On Coal, President Obama warned that his opponent was an enemy of coal (by comparison, presumably, Obama was a friend of coal):

“And when I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when — Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, “This plant kills,” and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.”

Notably, last night’s President Obama never once mentioned “global warming.” I kinda liked last night’s Obama! I wish he were the Obama that actually exists. Alas, real-life Obama is a far cry from Debate Obama.

Romney, on the other hand, used his dialogue on energy policy to trumpet two harmful energy shibboleths: “energy independence” and “all of the above.” The problem with the latter (“all of the above”) is that it draws no line to leave out the inane. It’s an inherently imprudent slogan. “Energy independence” is equally terrible. We participate in international oil markets because that’s the cheapest way to meet our aggregate demand for products we want. This is not a problem and it doesn’t warrant a national energy policy.

These catch-phrases are insidious because they function as seemingly reasonable justifications for terribly misguided market intrusions. And they are vague enough such that they can accommodate virtually any bad idea under the sun. For these reasons, they are bandied about by both political parties.

For example, fuel economy regulations increase highway fatalities by making cars smaller. Yet they were signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush and expanded on by his Democratic successor. Both administrations predicated these killer regulations on the need to be “energy independent.” Ethanol is another idiotic, bipartisan policy that literally kills in the name of “energy independence.”

Similarly, subsidies to wind power producers enjoy bipartisan support, despite the fact that they are totally illogical because demand for wind is established by law in 30 states. It makes no sense to both subsidize supply and mandate demand. It’s not surprising that Democrats support big government give-aways to politically favored industries. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the  Republican caucus also thinks that these handouts are part of an “all of the above” strategy.

To his credit, Romney scored points by contradicting the President with the fact that oil and gas production on federal land is down. And to his discredit, President Obama sounded ridiculous when he bragged about how many miles of oil and gas pipeline that have been constructed during his administration, without mentioning his unpopular decision to delay the Keystone XL pipeline.

Overall, I give last night’s Obama an B+ on energy policy. Mitt Romney scored a B. The real-life Obama’s energy policies get a giant, red F.

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