President Obama’s SOTU Energy/Environment Message Made No Sense

by William Yeatman on January 29, 2014

in Blog

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When it comes to energy/environment policy, the big question heading into last night‘s State of the Union Address was: Which President Obama will show up?

Would it be 2012 Presidential candidate Obama, the one who tried to outflank Republican nominee Mitch Romney to the right on energy, by claiming to be a staunch supporter of all fossil fuels? Or would it be 2013 SOTU Obama, the one who stressed his alarm about climate change, the cause of which is greenhouse gas emissions emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels?

The incongruent answer is that BOTH of these Obama incarnations spoke last night. As I told the Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch,

In one breath, he incorrectly takes credit for growing U.S. oil and gas production, which, in fact, took place despite his administration, rather than because of it. In the next, he vows to do all he can to fight global warming. Of course, his boast of booming oil and gas drilling is antithetical to his promise to mitigate climate change.

It’s impossible to discern any policy prognosis from his speech, because it makes no sense. It like trying to interpret a stop light that reads both green and red contemporaneously.

Notably, this confusion extends to the President’s signature climate policy, the Carbon Pollution Standard. As I explain here, the regulation would require coal-fired power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by installing carbon capture and sequestration. In order to make compliance costs manageable (and legally permissible), EPA projects that power plants will sell their captured CO2 to oil drillers, who can inject it underground to enhance oil recovery. But the administration never took into account the greenhouse gas emissions caused by enhanced oil recovery, which would be effectively subsidized by the Carbon Pollution Standard. According to my calculation, every 1 kg of CO2 “captured” at a coal plant leads to 1.6 kg of CO2 from the combustion of oil engendered by the process.

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