Wednesday, June 23rd 2010, 5:05 PM EDT
President Obama’s June 15 oil spill speech has been roundly criticized, and for good reason. It was long on blame, effusive with green energy promises, but devoid of any substantive plan for cleaning up the mess in the Gulf and ushering in the era of wind and solar utopia. The speech raised far more questions than it answered.
My column this week asks some of the tough questions that the President and his allies refuse to raise, much less answer.
Perhaps you can help stir up the kind of debate we so clearly need.
A few questions for President Obama
How exactly does the President plan to create his new Green Jobs Economy?
America needs decisive leaders who understand what government can (and cannot) do to stop the Gulf gusher, clean up the mess, and get business, jobs and prosperity back on track. Instead, President Obama sounds like an anti-business Community Organizer in Chief – pointing fingers, making baseless claims about ending our “addiction to oil,” and leaving no crisis unexploited to promote job-killing cap-tax-and-trade and renewable energy agendas. His June 15 “vision” raised more questions than it answered.
1) The President said he can no longer support new drilling unless industry can prove it will be “absolutely safe.” This avoidable environmental disaster happened because BP, its contractors and MMS regulators did not follow procedures or respond properly to tests and warning signs, indicating critical trouble was brewing downhole. But if “absolute safety” is to decide activities and technologies, America will come to a standstill in the absence of impossible-to-obtain proof that nothing will ever go wrong, no one will ever screw up, and no technology will ever malfunction.
Oil tankers sometimes run aground, unleashing their black cargo on our shores. Will oil imports now be banned, as well? Over 42,000 Americans died in car accidents last year. Will highways and city streets be closed to vehicles? Airports, trains and subways? Wind turbines kill 3,000 eagles and other raptors every year, plus 100,000 to 300,000 other birds and bats. Will they be shut down until that carnage ends?
2) President Obama demanded that BP “set aside “whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed” by the spill. With thousands of environmental activists, regulators, congressmen and trial lawyers on Team Obama, one can only imagine what creative damages and costs might be concocted, to convert the initial $20-billion BP fund into a bottomless money pit, and what “standards” might guide bird death valuations, for example.
ExxonMobil paid $600,000 when 85 birds died in uncovered waste facilities. PacifiCorp paid was fined $1.4 million after 230 eagles were killed by its power lines over a two-year period. Will those fines set the standard for Gulf oil spill bird deaths? Or will the standard be the zero, zip, nada fines assessed to date on wind turbine operators for their ongoing slaughter? Will BP be required to compensate oil field workers who lose their jobs because Team Obama imposed an arbitrary drilling moratorium, instead of ensuring improved oversight of drilling, blowout prevention and well completion activities?
3) The President said China is creating “clean energy” jobs “that should be right here in America,” while we send “nearly $1 billion of our wealth every day to foreign countries for their oil.” We will “embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny,” he declared, because “the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.”
America is not running out of oil. It is running out of places the government allows us to drill. China is creating renewable energy jobs, because it mines the lanthanides, lithium and other minerals that are essential for wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid cars, while we lock up our prospects; burns coal to generate cheap electricity to run its factories, while the White House, Congress and EPA try to drive US coal-based power to extinction; and pays its factory workers a fraction of what American workers receive.
Companies have been drilling in deep waters, because most onshore and shallow water areas are off limits. Will we now open the ANWR, Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, Rockies and near-shore OCS to drilling – where access and development are easier, and accidents (that we hope, and industry must ensure, never happen again) can be fixed and cleaned up far more easily than in mile-deep waters?
Will President Obama lift his OCS moratorium (which even his independent safety experts opposed), before it further devastates the battered Gulf economy, rigs head overseas, and thousands of experienced workers permanently leave the industry for other lines of work?
To advance the President’s “national mission” and generate 20% or more of our electricity with wind and solar, will our legislators, regulators and litigators continue to ignore the environmental review, endangered species, migratory bird and other laws that govern fossil fuel and nuclear power – so that we can rapidly blanket millions of acres of onshore and offshore America with wind turbines and solar panels, to replace coal-fired power plants, regardless of the environmental costs?
Rather than dozens of “ugly” offshore oil and gas platforms, often dozens of miles from our coasts – will America now enjoy seeing thousands of “beautiful” offshore wind turbines, towering above our beaches and creating obstacle courses for submarines, merchant ships laden with bunker fuel, and more tankers filled with crude oil and far more toxic refined product?
Will the President and Congress now open some of the hundreds of millions of acres they have made off limits to exploration and mining for the minerals needed to manufacture “green” technologies here in America? Or will we henceforth be dependent on foreign countries and dictators for both our “dirty” oil and the raw materials and finished components needed to build a new “clean energy” economy?
4) Under a cap-tax-and-trade regime, the price of hydrocarbon energy will “necessarily skyrocket,” to “encourage” companies and families to use less fossil fuel energy, and “persuade” them to switch to wind and solar. How will that affect turbine and panel manufacturing costs and subsidies, and the downstream costs of renewable energy and everything Americans make, grow, drive, ship, eat, drink and do?
How will US wind and solar factories compete with Chinese and Indian facilities, if the American plants are compelled to pay two, three, five times as much for electricity, under cap-tax-and-trade and renewable energy mandates? How will they compete if they must also pay subsidies, union wages and gold-plated health and pension plans, if government grants are also tied to compulsory unionization, and if non-union shops and right-to-work states are excluded from the bidding and subsidy process?
How will regulators and “clean energy” companies deal with the nasty pollutants generated in the process of manufacturing hundreds of thousands of wind turbines and millions of acres of solar panels? How will they handle highly toxic silicon tetrachloride, the powerful greenhouse gas nitrogen trifluoride and other chemicals used or generated in making solar panels, fiberglass and other components?
Even “little” 1.5 megawatt wind turbines require 700 tons of concrete, steel, fiberglass, copper and rare earth (lanthanide) minerals. Add in the transmission lines and backup gas-fired generators, and we’re talking some serious land use, raw material, pollution, bird kill and economic issues. How do our legislators, regulators, litigators and environmental activists plan to address these issues?
Will solar and wind companies operate under free market principles, to compete and possibly fail against other energy firms? Or will they be kept in business via huge subsidies under government systems that extract countless billions from families and less favored companies, borrow it from our children, and redistribute that wealth to “clean energy” companies? How long will this Grecian Formula be sustainable?
Spain lost 2.2 traditional jobs for every wind power job its massive subsidies created. President Obama has said we can create 5 million green jobs. How does he plan to compensate 11 million workers who will lose their traditional jobs under the Spanish Scenario? With more stimulus money and red ink?
Every seven million gallons of corn-based ethanol requires billions in subsidies, cropland equivalent to Indiana, millions of gallons of water and millions of tons of fertilizer, to make fuel that costs more but gets a third less mileage than gasoline. Can someone explain how this is eco-friendly and sustainable?
When this house of cards inevitably collapses, as it has in Spain, will its congressional and administration creators be held responsible and accountable, under the same standards they are applying to BP?
Just asking. (Not that I expect President Obama, Senator Kerry or Speaker Pelosi to have any answers – or even deign to respond to any American citizen who might ask such impertinent questions.)
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death.