Yeah, so, I spent several days last week blogging about the State of the Union speech. I know you’re all sick of it — probably were before I even started — so this will be the last one I
I knew going in that political speeches are generally empty rhetoric, particularly Bushian speeches, but even I didn’t anticipate the utter vacuity of Bush’s pronouncements on energy independence.
So, forthwith, here’s a final wrapup post on The Unbearable Pointlessness of Being … interested in political speeches:
- Bush’s proclamations about reducing Mideast oil imports were incredibly modest, and he didn’t even mean them, and Cheney subsequently made it clear that they won’t do anything substantial about it anyway.
- There’s simply no way we could reduce Mideast oil imports in a targeted way. Even if we could, it would make no difference; oil is a fungible commodity on a world market — if we didn’t buy the Mideast’s, someone else would. The Mideast will be the primary source for oil as long as the world wants oil.
- The Advanced Energy Initiative amounts to small, incremental funding increases for existing programs, many of which Bush had cut previously, and much of the money going to renewables is being siphoned off for earmarks anyway.
- About a third of the money from the AEI goes to "clean coal," which is at best a rear-guard action, at worst a corporate boondoggle.
- About two-thirds of the money from the AEI goes to sources (or, like hydrogen, storage) of electricity, which will do nothing to reduce oil consumption.
- Pretty much all the money in the AEI goes to research, but what’s desperately needed is deployment of existing technologies.
- The existence of new tech, no matter how well-researched, won’t lead to quick deployment without some market incentive — say, a carbon tax or a gas tax — and Bush has resolutely resisted any such move.
- Subsidies to oil companies in last year’s energy bill dwarf — by several orders of magnitude — the entire federal budget for alternative energies, even if you include "clean coal" and nuclear in that category (though perhaps not if you include agricultural subsidies).
So, long story short: Bush’s stated desire to help the U.S. "move beyond a petroleum-based economy" is utterly, 100% political manipulation, meant to create the illusion that the feds are doing something in the face of high gas and home-heating prices and astronomical oil-company profits. There’s scarcely a shred of substance to it.
Nevertheless, I do think (as does Carl Pope) that the phrase "America is addicted to oil" is significant. It’s now on record as the bipartisan consensus; sooner or later, whatever sparks of life remain in our democracy will hold our leaders to account for it. One can hope.
And with that, I’ll leave the SOTU alone.