Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama's weak speech

President Obama has a very tough task in front of him. He can't do anything to "plug the damn hole" but people are suffering and we expect the president to do something about it. So he decided to give an Oval Office speech last night about the crisis that John Hinderaker correctly describes as dishonest. Once Obama had made his promises about how he would help restore the way of life on the Gulf - something that is beyond his power to do, he moved on to what he does best - push a policy that is both unpopular and will damage our economy but fits his ideological agenda.
We consume more than 20% of the world's oil, but have less than 2% of the world's oil reserves. And that's part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean - because we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

This howler is a favorite canard of Democratic politicians. As is so often the case, they are relying on the public's ignorance. Most people don't realize that in the U.S., oil isn't counted as part of our "reserves" unless it is legally available for drilling. Thus, ANWR, to take one of many examples, isn't counted toward the total "reserves." The U.S. government could cause our reserves to skyrocket overnight by opening new areas, on land and in shallow water, to drilling. But the U.S. is the only country in the world that has deliberately chosen not to develop its own energy resources. No one else is that dumb.
The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.
"Jumpstart" means subsidize.
Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill - a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America's businesses.
How does the House bill make clean energy profitable? By imposing a gigantic tax on carbon. The idea is to make fossil fuels artificially expensive, so that less efficient energy sources become competitive. This is another way of saying that the plan is to make the American people poorer.
So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party - as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.
The "addiction" meme is moronic. We are not addicted to oil, we make a rational decision to use it because it is the most efficient and versatile energy source on this planet. If the federal government artificially inflates the price of fossil fuels through taxation and thereby forces Americans to use less desirable sources of energy, while at the same time other countries continue to use more efficient fossil fuels, it will raise the relative price of all American products and devastate our economy. Is it possible that Barack Obama does not know this? I'm not sure; his grasp of even the most basic economic principles seems shaky at best.

So Obama's performance was not just ineffective, it was meretricious.
Ouch. But deserved. Obama ignored the actions that he's taken that are exacerbating the situation - his moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Most of the Oval Office oil talk was given over to resurrecting Mr. Obama's green agenda and, as before, the arguments were slippery. He blamed deep-water drilling on the scarcity of oil when he has blocked drilling in Alaska and in shallow water along both coasts. His moratorium on drilling makes us more dependent on the very foreign imports he deplored last night.
The moratorium also risks more environmental damage than continuing the drilliing. As the experts whom the Department of Interior consulted agreed, shutting down the rigs and towing them away while shipping more oil across the ocean risks more than continuing the drilling.

Then there is the questionable idea of BP just handing over money for the escrow account. As the WSJ argues, even beyond its lack of legal basis, this sets a very ugly precedent.
Tellingly, Mr. Obama declined to cite any legal authority for the escrow fund, about which he plans to "inform" BP CEO Tony Hayward tomorrow. We don't believe the President has the power to force a corporation to set aside money for future, undetermined and open-ended obligations. It is a precedent fraught with potential for abuse.
And then there is this dishonest characterization that AP factchecks for him.
OBAMA: "We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore."

THE FACTS: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and local officials pleaded for weeks with the Army Corps of Engineers and the spill response command for permission to build about 40 miles of sand berms along the barrier islands.

State officials applied for an emergency permit to build the berms May 11, but as days went by Jindal became increasingly angry at federal inaction. The White House finally agreed to a portion of the berm plan on June 2. BP then agreed to pay for the project.

The corps was worried that in some cases such a move would alter tides and drive oil into new areas and produce more harm than good.