Obama’s Snoozefest of an Energy Speech

The Obama administration has had terrible luck when it comes to energy. A year ago tomorrow President Obama called for increased offshore drilling, only to have the Deepwater Horizon explode a few weeks later and unleash the worst oil spill in US history on the Gulf of Mexico. In this year’s State of the Union he called for a “clean energy standard” that included, among other things, nuclear power—only to have a bunch of reactors malfunction in Japan. I do feel a little bit bad for the administration for that reason. But it’s worth noting that the administration didn’t change courses on those two issues at all in Obama’s energy speech on Wednesday. In fact, Obama only dug in further on both oil and nuclear.

This is especially uninspiring given the context in which he gave the speech. The upheaval in a number of Middle Eastern nations has raised concerns about our dependence on the region for oil. Rising gas prices are making Americans anxious. Japan is still in the middle of a nuclear disaster. The first anniversary of the Gulf spill is upon us. And the Senate is currently considering several measures to block the EPA from acting on greenhouse gas emissions, an issue inextricable from our energy concerns.

There were a few good promises in the speech on the energy front. You can read his remarks here or read more on the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. In them, Obama calls for a one-third cut in oil use in the next 10 years, in addition to the goal of drawing 80 percent of our energy from “clean” sources 2035 that he outlined earlier this year. You should read David Roberts at Grist for more detailed griping about the speech.

But the administration’s energy and climate agenda is probably on the back burner for the foreseeable future, so I’m having a hard time really getting too worked up about the speech. I have very little faith that the House and Senate can come to an agreement on even minor policy on this—even if Obama had said all the right things in the speech.

I will point out, though, that it would have been nice if he’d lent some support to the Environmental Protection Agency’s work on greenhouse gas regulations in the speech, given that the Senate may well vote this week to block the agency from acting. Reaffirmation of the administration’s support for those rules would have been useful today of all days.