That grown-up would be Robert J. Samuelson in the May 18 issue of Newsweek magazine. In an article entitled The Bias Against Oil and Gas, Samuelson demolishes the Obama Administration’s policies on energy and the environment, which seem focused more on punishing the Big Oil bogeyman than on actually achieving any kind of progress against the economic and strategic challenges facing the nation.
Notwithstanding the fact that the MoveOn crowd thought oil industry types had too much access to the Bush/Cheney White House, that’s what experienced managers do: consult with experts in a given field when making policy in that area.
The Administration’s plans, by contrast, are built on environmental platitudes, a deep-rooted anti-industry, anti-corporate bias and sound bites designed to resonate with (and make sense only to) soccer moms. As an example, Interior Secretary Salazar has been flogging an idea to replace coal for the East Coast’s electricity generation needs with wind energy from offshore — great idea, until you put a pencil to paper and try to figure out the cost to design, build, install and maintain the hundreds of thousands (maybe half a million or more) of windmills needed to generate that much electricity.
Considering the brutal recession and the widespread warnings of a feeble recovery, you’d expect the Obama administration to be obsessed with job creation. And so it is, say the president and his supporters. The trouble is that there’s at least one glaring exception to their claims: the oil and natural-gas industries. The Obama administration is biased against them—a bias that makes no sense on either economic or energy grounds. Almost everyone loves to hate Big Oil (the Exxons and Chevrons), and even small oil, but promoting domestic drilling is simply common sense.
…[T]he Obama administration … is fixated on “green jobs,” and wind and solar energy. Championing clean fuels has become a political set piece. On Earth Day (April 22), the president visited an Iowa factory that builds towers for wind turbines. “It’s time for us to [begin] a new era of energy exploration in America,” he said. “We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy.”
The president is lauded as a great educator; in this case, he provided much miseducation. He implied that there’s a choice between promoting renewables and relying on oil. Actually, the two are mostly disconnected. Wind and solar mainly produce electricity. About 70 percent of our oil goes for transportation (cars, trucks, planes); almost none—about 1.5 percent—generates electricity. So expanding wind and solar won’t displace much oil, though there might be some small effect on natural gas for heating. Someday, electric cars may change this. But at best, that’s decades away.
It’s insane not to encourage U.S. production. The same is true on economic grounds because the promise of green jobs is wildly exaggerated. Look at the numbers. In 2008 the oil and gas industries employed 1.8 million people. Jobs in the solar and wind industries are reckoned (by their trade associations) to be 35,000 and 85,000, respectively. Now do the arithmetic: a 5 percent rise in oil jobs (90,000) almost equals a doubling for wind and solar (120,000). Modest movements, up or down, in oil and natural gas will swamp plausible changes in green jobs. They won’t save the economy.