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Translating Obama's energy policy

President Barack Obama will be in Colorado today at Buckley Air Force Base promoting his new “all-of-the-above” energy policy. He’s delivering his remarks to a “closed audience” that includes “local energy stakeholders” (translation: rent seekers). We acquired a “fact sheet” about the President’s new direction for energy on which his speech will be based. Since most of us didn’t make the invite list, Michael Sandoval and I have taken the liberty of translating what this new approach to energy policy really means.

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint to Make The Most of America’s Energy Resources

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a Blueprint for an America Built to Last, underscoring his commitment to an all-of-the-above approach that develops every available source of American energy. This commitment includes the safe and responsible production of our oil and natural gas resources.

Translation: We’ll pay lip service to the reasonable “all-of-the-above” energy advocates, but don’t worry anti-fossil fuel crowd. “Safe and responsible” are relative terms that are invoked to kill any oil and gas project that the green enthusiasts deem eco-unfriendly such as the Keystone pipeline.

Today, American oil production is at the highest level in eight years and last year we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.

Translation: production is high because of advancements in technology such as hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling not because this administration is a fan of fossil fuels. The drop in demand for imported oil is the consequence of a dismal economy and gas prices up 83 percent since the president took office.

At the same time, the President believes we need to double-down on clean energy in the United States. Transitioning to cleaner sources of energy will enhance our national security, protect the environment and public health, and grow our economy and create new jobs. Over the past few years, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. In fact, in 2011, the United States reclaimed the position as the world’s leading investor in clean energy – but staying on top will depend on smart, aggressive action moving forward.

Translation: Doubling-down on “clean energy” means an increase in importation of the rare earth minerals that comprise components in every major green technology—wind turbines, solar panels, and hybrid vehicle batteries. China controls 95 percent of the rare earth production, threatening national security. Chinese environmental regulations are virtually non-existent, failing to protect the environment in China or the public health of Chinese citizens, and produce tons of toxic waste trailings, radioactive debris, and millions of gallons of acid water—according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s August 2011 study, “Investigating Rare Earth Element Mine Development in EPA Region 8 and Potential Environmental Impacts.”

As for growing the economy and creating new jobs, the administration’s record is replete with examples of government-subsidized crony capitalist failures like Solyndra, or smoke-and-mirrors reports from “clean energy” advocacy firms. Actual government reports produced by Colorado’s Governor’s Energy Office and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment detail the difficulty of actually defining “clean energy” jobs or tracing their creation.

The green job creation that is reported tends to be a product of the numbers promised by politicians and touted by industry advocates, not subject to objective standards of scrutiny, or remembered once the business venture fails. The administration touts the doubling of renewable energy use—well, when the figures provided from the Energy Information Administration (yes, it exists) show wind and solar composing just 1.3 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2010, then yes, that growth can be overinflated. As for “investment” in “clean energy,” when it comes to government subsidies of any kind, the money comes from taxpayers domestically and from borrowing overseas, including China.

President Obama will begin the second day of his post-State of the Union swing with an event at a UPS facility in Las Vegas, focusing on the importance of American workers developing American-made energy for an economy that’s built to last. Following this event, the President will travel to Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado to deliver remarks on American energy and the steps his Administration is taking to promote energy security.

Translation: The administration has been gambling with poor taxpayer “investment” in businesses like Solyndra, so Las Vegas makes sense.

President Obama’s Plan to Advance Safe Production of Oil and Gas Resources To Create Jobs, Enhance Energy Security, and Cut Pollution.

Translation: President Obama will expand his carbon footprint exponentially trying to explain his vision of American energy policy.

Make a new lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico to move forward on our national commitment to safe and responsible oil and gas development: In his State of the Union Address, the President directed the Department of Interior to finalize a national offshore energy plan that makes 75% of our potential offshore resources available for development by opening new areas for drilling in the Gulf and Alaska. On Thursday, the President will take a concrete step forward to develop our oil and gas resources, announcing that the Department of Interior will hold a new lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. This lease sale will make approximately 38 million acres available, and could result in the production of 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Translation: Plans during an election year are flaky at best—and the likelihood of the administration abandoning key constituencies by eschewing previous calls for bans and moratoriums would be a true reversal of energy policy, and one unlikely to take place any time soon. We’ll check and see if that lease sale takes place, and whether or not those resources are allowed to develop or held up “indefinitely” pending more “clarification” or other environmental regulation impediments.

Promote safe, responsible development of the near 100-year supply of natural gas, supporting more than 600,000 jobs while ensuring public health and safety: In 2009, we became the world’s leading producer of natural gas. In the State of the Union, the President directed the Administration to ensure safe shale gas development that, according to independent estimates, will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. These actions will include moving forward with common-sense new rules to require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking operations on public lands.

Translation: We’ll give lip service to natural gas and hydraulic fracturing, but we really plan to appease our wealthy, elitist, eco-unreasonable donors and regulate fracking out of existence. The reality is that even small changes in environmental regulations surrounding fracking will lead to moratoriums and bans as companies fall afoul of disclosure requirements and other permitting processes freeze up.

Reducing our dependence on oil by encouraging greater use of natural gas in transportation: The President’s plan includes: proposing new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels; launching a competitive grant program to support communities to overcome the barriers to natural gas vehicle deployment; developing transportation corridors that allow trucks fueled by liquefied natural gas to transport goods; and supporting programs to convert municipal buses and trucks to run on natural gas and to find new ways to convert and store natural gas.

Translation: Son of “cash for clunkers.” We’ll force taxpayers to borrow even more to trash perfectly usable vehicles because we don’t like “dirty oil.”

Harnessing American ingenuity to catalyze breakthrough technologies for natural gas: The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) will announce a new research competition in the coming months that will engage our country’s brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to find ways to harness our abundant supplies of domestic natural gas to lessen our dependence of foreign oil for vehicles. The breakthrough technologies they will develop, whether they are for new ways to fuel our cars with natural gas or a method to turn that gas into liquid fuel, promise to break our dependence on foreign oil for our cars and trucks, allow us to breathe cleaner air, and ultimately save consumers at the pump. To date ARPA-E has hosted four rounds of competitions and attracted over 5000 applications from research teams, which has resulted in approximately 180 cutting edge projects.

Translation: part of our overall strategy to kill all fossil fuels by meddling with the natural gas industry.

The President’s Commitment to Clean Energy

Doubling the share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035: The centerpiece of the Administration’s strategy is a Clean Energy Standard, or “CES” – a flexible approach that harnesses American ingenuity and innovation, and channels it toward a clean energy future. By creating a market here at home for innovative clean energy technologies, we will unleash the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs and ensure that America leads the world in clean energy.

Translation: We will continue to pick market winners and losers by force-subsidizing “clean energy” through CES standards designed to inflate the “demand” for expensive energy. These phony energy markets collapse—as we’ve seen time and again in Europe—once the government subsidies are removed due to financial collapse in EU countries like Germany and the Netherlands. Also, by artificially increasing our dependence on Chinese-produced rare earth minerals for all of the components critical to wind and solar energy production, we will be less about “clean energy” here at home than “dirty energy” somewhere else.

Supporting clean energy with targeted tax incentives: The President supports renewing and extending a number of proven and successful provisions that are crucial to the continued growth of the domestic clean energy sector. This includes tax incentives for clean energy manufacturing, which could create up to 100,000 jobs, and the Production Tax Credit to support investment in the deployment of clean energy technologies like wind and solar.

Translation: We don’t care if Solyndra and Evergreen Solar burned through taxpayer cash and went bankrupt because we love toxic solar panels and raptor shredding wind turbines. Despite billions of dollars already “invested” in green jobs, we’ve failed to produce many jobs, but we’ll continue to perpetuate the myth that we can waste taxpayer money and create “green” jobs at the same time. The notion that an entire industry—wind turbine energy production—will disappear without tax credits speaks to the fragility and lack of actual demand for that type of energy in a free market. Also, rather than “create” jobs, the tax credit would likely, at best, “save” the already subsidized jobs “created” through artificial demand as a result of Renewable Energy Standards and other government-imposed regulations.

Opening public lands for private investments in clean energy: To enhance energy security and create new jobs, the Department of the Interior is committed to issuing permits for 10 gigawatts of renewable generation capacity – enough to power 3 million homes – from new projects on our public lands by the end of 2012.

Translation: Environmental degradation doesn’t matter when it comes to “green”energy that is neither green nor clean. Each MW of wind-produced energy requires tons of rare earth minerals to build each turbine’s generator, and each ton of rare earths is accompanied by the aforementioned toxic waste, acid water, and radioactive trailings. Do the math. Once again, the administration seems to think, as does the American Wind Energy Association and other advocates that wind turbines spring pre-formed with the tapping of the ground, sprouting from bulbs like so many Dutch windmills. Nevermind the transportation costs and the sprawl required to house the wind farms or solar arrays. Or sensitive species like the lesser prairie chicken, whose existence could stall wind energy development in Oklahoma if it fails to garner an exemption in being listed as an endangered species. In the hierarchy of green, which will take precedent according to the administration—the endangered chicken or the wind turbine?

Securing renewable energy for the U.S. Navy: Securing a safe, clean and reliable energy supply for our nation’s defense forces is essential to carrying out missions vital to the security of the United States. The Department of Navy has committed to adding 1 gigawatt of renewable energy produced from sources like solar, wind, and geothermal to its energy portfolio for shore-side installations – enough to power 250,000 homes.  Using existing authorities such as power purchase agreements, the Navy will ensure these energy projects are cost neutral and require no up-front investments by the government.

Translation: We’ll shift the up-front cost of acquiring energy through power purchase agreements to the taxpayers in some other fashion, most likely through the subsidies, tax credits, and other “investments” that create the energy sources in any producer’s energy portfolio. The Department of Defense has already begun to push for 25 percent renewable energy requirements by 2020, and to expand research into military applications of thin-film solar energy production. While we cut military spending in areas of troop size, we”ll actually spend more taxpayer money in the future because we want expensive, unreliable “renewable energy” that requires backup generation.

Note from the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute: We are agnostic on energy sources. We believe in affordable, abundant and reliable energy. Let consumers decide from which resource they would like to purchase their power.

While we welcome the president’s new approach of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, actions speak louder than words. As we have detailed repeatedly, the policies of this administration have led to the massive waste of taxpayer dollars, increased environmental degradation, higher energy prices, and a dangerous dependence on China making American energy less secure than it was when he took office.