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President Obama visited the Celgard plant in Charlotte, North Carolina the other day. Obama chose Celgard because they make batteries, and received $50 million in taxpayer funds via Obama's stimulus package. Celgard is using the money for expansion. Obama touted that achievement, though I always thought it was banks who were supposed to loan money to private companies for expansion, not the taxpayers. I also wonder how Celgard's competitors, the ones who didn't get any stimulus money, feel about it. This is the problem when the government interferes in the private sector, picking winners and losers in industry.
But I don't want to talk about what I disagree with in the President's remarks in North Carolina (I disagreed with A LOT). Instead, I want to talk about what I do agree with, and that comes in his overall energy strategy. Here's what Obama said about energy during a Q&A session, when someone asked him if offshore drilling would hamper investment in clean energy technologies:
We are interested in figuring out how we can improve efficiency across the system, both in buildings and in transportation sectors and -- you name it, we're all about increasing energy efficiency and finding new renewable, clean sources of energy. It's one of my highest priorities, and I think it's got to be one of our highest strategic priorities as an economy. It has the potential of being an enormous growth industry.
Here's the challenge that we have. We don't yet have the technological breakthroughs that can completely replace fossil fuels. So for the next 10 years, next 20 years, we're still going to be using oil; we're still going to be using coal; we're still going to be using natural gas -- we're still going to be using the traditional sources to fuel our cars, to heat our homes, to run our big power plants, et cetera.
The President is exactly right here. We should "drill, baby, drill" at the same time we endeavor to improve energy efficiency and propagate new and cleaner renewable energy technologies. There is no reason NOT to do it, despite the cries of the enviro-wackos and liberal dunderheads. We are going to need the old technologies for a long time to come, so we definitely should produce as much of our own energy as we can.
The President continued:
It's my hope that if we're aggressive over the next several years, we can substantially cut our energy use in every sector while still maintaining our high levels of economic growth. So, for example, at the announcement where I talked about offshore drilling, I did so in front of an F-18, a fighter jet, that is actually going to be run half on biomass. So I was joking with the pilot -- I said, so this thing runs on vegetable oil. But they're going to break the sound barrier using biomass as fuel.
So the Pentagon is investing huge amounts in energy efficiency. We are promoting weatherization across the country because this is a win-win situation; you put people to work putting in insulation, putting in windows -- most of which, by the way, that insulation and windows is manufactured here in the United States -- it saves on the individual's energy bill, plus it means that that power plant has to produce less energy to keep that home warm. So it's a win-win all across the board.
This is mostly correct, though I have a problem with using vegetable matter as energy. I think we're better off using vegetables for...FOOD.
Then the President made the enviros and libs heads spin in circles like the possessed girl in the Excorcist by saying the following:
That's our biggest priority -- energy efficiency and renewable, clean energy. But because we're going to have this transition -- unless somebody here invents something tomorrow, which would be very helpful, and if you have it let me know, we'll get it going right away -- but what's most likely is we're going to have this transition. And so in the interim we've got to look at our traditional energy sources and figure out how can we use those most effectively and in the most environmentally sound way.
That's why I announced that we were going to start the first nuclear plant in 30 years. Japan, France, other countries have a safe, secure, reliable and effective nuclear -- civilian nuclear energy. We essentially stopped 30 years ago. For those of you who are concerned about climate change, nuclear energy doesn't produce greenhouse gases. It's not a perfect energy source because it's got the problem with spent fuel and how that is properly stored, but generally speaking, that's going to have to be part of our energy mix.
Wow. I can't believe a President from the DEMOCRATIC party is actually saying these things. I'm not used to Democrats actually, you know, making sense.
Obama also talked about the limitations he'll place on drilling, and the environmental risk factors:
The decision around drilling -- same approach. What we did was we said we're not going to have drilling a mile off the North Carolina coast or two miles off. But 50 miles off, 100 miles off, where it is appropriate and environmentally sound and not risky, we should allow exploration to begin taking place to see if there's certain reserves.
There are some areas that we just completely put off limits, like Bristol Bay in Alaska where it's a huge fishery, environmentally very sensitive. There are some areas off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico which don't make sense for us to allow exploration, even though we know that there are existing reserves there.
But what we did was we tried to look at the scientific evidence and figure out where are areas where low risk environmentally and a high potential upside.
Now, here's the last thing I'll say about drilling, though, because what you have is, you have some environmentalists who just said, don't drill anywhere; and then you've got some of my friends on the Republican side who were saying, well, this is a nice first step but it's not enough -- you should open up everything.
I don't agree with the notion that we shouldn't do anything. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn't come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.
But the notion that we could drill our way out of the problem -- you'll start hearing about this because you know what happens during the summer. As soon as gas prices start going up -- every summer it's the same thing, right? And then politicians start standing up and -- "we're going to do something about it" -- and these days some of my colleagues on the Republican side, what they'll say is, you got to drill even more.
Count me as one who thinks more areas should be opened up for drilling (can you say 'ANWR,' or off the West Coast ?), but with a Democrat in office, I'm just happy that we might be making progress. Obama is correct that we can't simply drill our way out of the energy problem forever, or at least we can't given our current rates of energy consumption, but that's why conservation is key. The President said we have 2% of the world's oil reserves while we consume 20% of the world's oil.
Obama ended with the most important point:
That's why we've got to get moving on this clean energy sector, but we also have to make sure that we've got enough supply that's regular in terms of these other energy -- traditional energy, sources, so that by the time we get to the clean energy sector, we haven't had to sacrifice economic growth along the way.
Absolutely. When clean energy is cost effective and abundant, it will take it's place in our energy supply. Until then, we HAVE to keep the country going, and it's going to take coal and oil to do it. Nuclear energy could be a great help. Why the political left doesn't understand this is anybody's guess. They make no sense at all to me. If we start going to electric car technology, we're going to need a lot more electric energy (coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar). We're going to have to upgrade our entire electrical grid, and the most abundant energy sources of electricity (coal, hydro, and nuclear) will have to pick up the slack. It's very doubtful whether intermittent energy sources like wind and solar are up for the job, though Obama seems more confident about this than I am.
But I have to love it when a Democratic President knocks down yet more phony left-wing talking points. You go, Barack. I really hope you are serious about this stuff.