Obama's energy speech today promises to be mostly a re-hash of previous administration announcements regarding efforts to make America more energy independent, but at least one bombshell has already been leaked by the White House:
Obama wants to reduce America's oil imports by a third in 10 years.
It's hard to think of anything — short of an economic crash bigger than any ever seen in U.S. history, or perhaps an alien race forcing all of us to take to our bicycles — that could conceivably accomplish such a goal. The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects that we will import 10 million barrels a day of oil in 2012, from Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, in that order.
Any technological means for reaching such a goal would have to be on sale already — there’s not time to make new ones. Perhaps the president thinks market penetration for electric cars will follow an exponential curve with a slope not unlike an Olympic ski jump.
But enough editorializing. Here are the main plot points for today's 11:20AM EST speech at Georgetown University:
- More natural gas use in vehicles, especially e.g. city buses.
- At least four new commercial-grade biofuel refineries in the next two years. These refineries will produce fuel using cellulosic or "advanced" techniques. Cellulosic ethanol has long been the magic pony of the biofuels industry, and is widely believed to be the only route to producing biofuels without simultaneously driving up the price of food.
- Trucks are going to finally get higher fuel efficiency standards, probably by late summer.
- Drill baby drill! The administration wants to provide incentives for firms to drill here and drill now. The White House also made a swipe at oil companies by pointing out that there are millions of acres of federal land which they have access to but have so far failed to develop.
Pretty much every outlet covering this story has pointed out that basically every president since Nixon has promised to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and they've all failed. Economists say the fastest route to accomplishing this end would be a steep gas tax. Wanna guess how popular that would be in a time of record-high gas prices? (Obama's poll numbers are currently lower than they've ever been.)