Running on empty with a full tank: the incoherence of Obama’s energy policies

Troy Senik Senior Fellow, Center for Individual Freedom
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Though Barack Obama is a polarizing politician, there’s one thing that his friends and critics seem to agree on: he’s a canny politician. So if the president had the ability to bring down the nation’s staggering gas prices, create new American jobs and decrease the country’s reliance on foreign energy sources without spending a dime of taxpayer money, wouldn’t you expect him to take it?

If you answered yes, chances are that you’re not working in the Obama White House.

As Americans watch skyrocketing gasoline prices (up an average of nearly 80 cents a gallon from this time last year) frustrate their hopes for economic recovery, they should be outraged by a new report on America’s energy resources from the Congressional Research Service. The report shows that the United States is sitting on the largest batch of energy resources on the planet. In fact, these vital fuel sources add up to more than the resources of energy-rich Saudi Arabia, China and Canada combined.

At every turn, the report’s pages reveal a plethora of untapped resources. We have enough oil to replace our imports from the Middle East for 50 years. We have enough domestic natural gas for about 100 years. And we have enough recoverable coal to power the nation for at least two centuries. And none of those statistics factor in the increased efficiencies that could allow future generations of Americans to do more with less of these copious fuel sources.

The problem, of course, is that the Obama administration and its allies throughout the Democratic Party and the alternative energy industry deride these existing resources as remnants of a crude industrial era. Instead, they hasten us to a future powered by faddish innovations in technologies like solar and wind power. And they attempt to sweeten the pot by invoking the revolution in “green jobs” that will accompany this economic and environmental transformation.

Unfortunately, this revolution has not been forthcoming. Despite decades of government support and billions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money, alternative energy remains a boutique pipe dream. And the experience of nations like Spain and Britain — which have pursued green jobs agendas in earnest — show that these initiatives inevitably end up destroying more jobs than they create.

The economics at work are elementary. Without a method for making alternative energy affordable in the free market, liberals are reduced to coercion. That means subsidizing the inefficient alternative fuels with taxpayer money, artificially raising the price of fuel sources that actually work, or both. It doesn’t take a doctorate to realize that this is a recipe for lower quality, higher costs and economic decline.

Rather than embrace the tremendous resources that literally lie at our feet, the Obama administration is soldiering on with its quixotic promotion of costly and unworkable alternatives. The White House and its allies are quite literally tilting at windmills. In the meantime, America’s economy is needlessly running on empty.

Troy Senik is a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom.