Barack Obama, Bamboozler-in-Chief of the US, made a rather hinky statement about oil the other day. He posited a false dichotomy about oil being the "energy of the past" and alternative energy being the wave of the future. This is becoming part of his stump speech, as he elaborated on that talking point a few days later, trying to depict anyone who opposed his policies as "flat earthers".
Let's look at what he said, he called oil "the fuel of the past", as opposed to algae and electric cars and windmills and solar that he deems "the fuel of the future". But, isn't he omitting a rather large part of the equation? How about: The Present?
You know, algae might make a fine fuel someday, but when you go to fill up your car to get to work tomorrow, to go to the grocery store, to carpool the kids to school, to take the baby to the doctor, you can't fill up at the corner algae station, because there is none. If Barack could snap his fingers and put an algae powered car on every driveway in the nation, most of you would have to stay home, because there is no infrastructure to support it.
Those mean, nasty oil companies (more about them later) and their dealers have put up an awful lot of money to make sure that there's a gas station as convenient to you as possible, so you won't get stuck by the side of the road in downtown Cleveland or Left Wingnut, Wyoming, because you couldn't find a gas station. That infrastructure was not built overnight. And it did not come cheap, either.
And historically, even big breakthroughs in science did not take effect universally. People were still using kerosine lamps after Edison invented the light bulb. Many people still rode horses and horse drawn buggies after the automobile was invented. People were still riding trains after the Wright Brothers' invention made its first commercial flight. Ever heard of "Amtrak"? There are people today who take trains to cities where they could fly. Most times the things of the past have coexisted with newer technology for years and years. Some things are even more enduring and compete with new technology for a century or better.
The point is, that a) our need for a stable petroleum supply for both our manufacturing and energy needs is not going away any time soon. The monitor you're reading this on was made from petroleum products. The keyboard you use to type your nasty response, disagreeing with everything I say, is made largely from petroleum products.
b) The infrastructure to support electric, or algae, or hydrogen, or nuclear powered cars is not there yet, and for many people, won't be there for many years. You may be able to refuel your car's hydrogen fuel cell at the corner of Fifth and Main in the next five or ten years, but those people who use a tractor to clear the snow off their unpaved roads in the winter, will never see a hydrogen fuel cell for that old Ford 9N. Before we relegate any fuel "to the past", there must be something else to take its place. And we are not there yet.
Electric cars are still mostly playthings for the well to do. Worse yet for their prospect, is the fact that China is the primary source for acquiring the "rare earth" elements needed to make high tech batteries and devices. Even as you read this, the Chinese have backed off from selling us as much of the rare earths as we would like to buy. What if that source were cut off from us completely? What's "Plan 'B'"?
And a nation of electric cars and electric high speed trains (don't get me started on THAT one!), will require more and more electric capacity, not less. And every solar or wind powered facility needs a full fledged back up system for when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, unless you had a very efficient storage system, which we do not currently (pun intended) possess. Yet, Obama and his EPA are shuttering coal fired plants left and right (mostly left), leaving our grid in a much more precarious position to provide for the needs of a growing economy. I guess his first step in bringing these goals to pass, was to make sure the economy wasn't growing!
But the only reason we’ve come this far as a nation is because we refuse to stand still. Because we put our faith in the future. Because we are inventors and builders and makers of things. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That’s who we are. That’s who we need to be right now.
After disparaging the past, he cites Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. We are still using Mr. Edison's lightbulb today, and many of us prefer it to the "CFL" (Catastrophic Failure Lamps; see also: Exploding Mercury Bombs). We may all be using LEDs someday, but for now, many people object to the price of LED bulbs and the environmental hazards of CFLs.
I bought an LED bulb just yesterday. I'm glad I didn't buy two! When I got it home, it didn't fit in the fixture I had purchased it for. Maybe one day, they come out with a different bulb or someone designs a different fixture and we all live happily ever after. But, that's not today.
Mr. President: I don't live in the past. I resent you trying to falsely paint everyone who disagrees with you as ignorant, particularly in light of that historically inaccurate tripe you included in that particular speech. I live in the present, where petroleum and petroleum byproducts fuel my transportation and provide my livelihood. There are millions of Americans just like me. You were not elected to bring about some sweeping change that would alter our future. You were elected to defend and uphold the Constitution. Last time I looked there was nothing in there about algae powered cars, LED lighting, solar power or universal health care.
Quit bragging about how much higher oil production has been during your administration, seeing as how oil production on federal lands has dropped and the increases are all in spite of your policies. Stop playing politics with America's energy security. Approve the Keystone pipeline. Facilitate drilling in the far northern, barren and desolate regions of ANWR.
Tell your hippie, environmentalist friends that it is essential to become energy independent to preserve our liberty, and that oil and coal are the energy of the present.
Cross posted at LCR.