The New York Times took some shine off President Barack Obama’s green energy pronouncements made in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. The newspaper stated Wednesday that much of the energy successes under the Obama administration came from oil companies and the private market.
The Times noted Obama was technically correct when he told the American people that “we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.”
The article, however, adds some significant caveats to its praise.
Policy experts suggest many of the advancements in green energy technology over the past few years had little to do with Obama’s stimulus law, “occurring instead through government policies, market forces and private sector activities,” according to the article.
Obama’s 2009 stimulus program notched out more than $80 billion to subsidize a myriad of green energy industries. Nearly 10 percent of the $80 billion that went to companies are either bankrupt or were, at the time of the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 report, nearing bankruptcy.
“It’s very hard to attribute the bulk of what’s happening now in terms of bending the emissions curve and increasing renewables specifically to the stimulus,” David Victor, an expert on energy policy at the University of California, told The New York Times.
More than anything, Victor said, Obama’s green energy investments created a lot of redundancies.
“The stimulus program subsidized a lot of things that would have happened anyway, or that shouldn’t have happened,” Victor stated.
Private oil and gas companies helped shoulder much of the successes Obama touted in his address, according to the report. The companies, for example, lowered fossil fuel emissions across the board and helped wean the U.S. off supposedly dirty imported oil.
Oil companies were able to make the U.S. a leader in oil and natural gas production with the advent and widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” The NYT notes. At the same time – thanks to the lift on the oil export ban in December – they positioned the country to become net oil exporters.
Michael Levi, an energy policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed with Victor’s premise, telling The NYT the results from fracking and other gas extraction methods were due, “in part by government action but were at least as much a result of market forces.”
He added, “The president didn’t get in the way, but that doesn’t mean he made these things happen all by himself.”
In some instances, Obama has been openly antagonistic to hydraulic fracking, at least on federally controlled land. Last September, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl temporarily blocked a hold the Obama administration placed on natural gas extraction on federal lands.
Pro-fracking Republicans approved of Skavdahl’s ruling in the case.
The judge made “the right decision because it stops the Obama Administration from shoving this harmful policy down the states’ throats,” Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop said in a statement.
Still, fracking on federal land is highly regulated.
The Obama administration placed new, sprawling regulations on the natural gas extraction technique last March – the regulations allow government workers to needle oil companies about their safety precautions, and require companies to disclose the kinds of chemicals they use.
There are 100,000 natural gas wells on federally controlled land, most of which can be affected by the new cavalcade of natural gas regulations.
The federal government owns 640 million acres. In the West, federal land ownership is even more pronounced. The government controls almost 85 percent of land in Nevada, and nearly 60 percent of land in Oregon — a state that has seen protests over private and public land ownership.
While many of the energy successes can be chalked up to the private market, many more of the country’s energy policy failures can be attributed to the stimulus packages Obama handed out to green energy companies.
In April, it was disclosed that the American taxpayers were on the hook after $1 billion in federal loans defaulted under Obama’s Department of Energy program, which included the Solyndra stimulus.
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