No doubt what all the green blogs will be discussing this morning is Obama’s pledge to open up a lot more land to oil and gas leases. 75% more, in fact. Most of this land will likely be on the Outer Continental Shelf, giving oil and gas companies access to technically recoverable fossil fuel reserves. This is sure to anger many environmentalists, but the fact of the matter is that oil is an amazing energy source, unsurpassed by anything else that isn’t radioactive. After a century of relying solely on oil, it is going to take a decade or more to really cut into our dependence on oil.
That’s reality, and sometimes, reality sucks. But this is an election year, and I have no doubt that Obama is trying to take the issue off the table. It’s not like liberals and environmentalists are going to run out and vote for GOP candidates who spread lies and slander electric cars and other alternative fuel methods. The way most members of the GOP shills for the oil and gas industries is just embarrassing.
Obama also stumped for the natural gas industry, citing inflated figures like America is sitting 100 years of natural gas and the industry could employ some 600,000 people. One thing I did like was Obama’s call for more transparency when it comes to fracking, a method of natural gas extraction that involves pumping an unknown cocktail of different chemicals into the ground to release long-trapped natural gas. Facking has been linked to health hazards, earthquakes, and flammable water. America does have large natural gas reserves, and it could prove a viable alternative to oil, at least in the short term.
But Obama did call for an end to oil subsidies, saying that the government has subsidized Big Oil for over a century. I liked that, and Republicans are going to have a much harder time defending Big Oil subsidies at a time when their primary platform is calling for smaller government. That money should go to green start ups, says Obama, to level the playing field in a country that has favored oil for a hundred years. Then again, in the past month Congress has ended the ethanol blending credit, as well as tax credits for electric vehicles. Not exactly an inspiring start.
The President also called for grants and loans that will help companies modernize and become more energy efficient. And by far the best part of the State of the Union address (for me at least) was Obama’s call to use half of the war savings to pay down our budget defciet, and the other half to invest in infrastructure. It’s no secret that America’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems are in poor shape. As a percentage of the GDP, America infrastructure spending amounts to 2.4%, while most of Europe invests 5%, and China, a country experiencing a huge economic boon, invests almost 10% of its GDP into infrastructure projects like high-speed trains.
Overall, I’ve come to distrust politicians and speeches, Republican, Democrat, or other. At this point, Obama has given me a lot to look forward to, and the all-of-the-above energy strategy works for me, though more die-hard environmentalists probably aren’t happy. Then again, I only saw Senate Minority Leader John Boehner clap maybe twice during the whole speech. He looked like he really had to poop.
But what is really going to matter at this point is action. President Obama still has 10 months left to convince me that he deserves his job back, and he’ll need more than just pretty words to get my vote.