President's speech resorts to fantasy on oil and prices

The state-of-the-union speech Feb. 12 smothered whispers of hope on energy policy with shrieks of delusional ambition.

US President Barack Obama hinted at tapping federal oil and gas royalties to fund research on alternative energy. So would policy on new energy forms swing toward research and away from subsidization? Would funding from royalties replace the oil and gas tax increases Obama proposes every year?

These would be constructive changes. But the president didn’t claim to be altering course. And what he did say was discouraging.

The aim of new energy research, Obama said, would be “to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

To accomplish that, he’d need more research than royalties can buy. Oil and gas dominate transportation energy for reasons not easily overcome—and not likely to be overcome soon. History—recent and less so, in the US and elsewhere—shows how costly it is to try to replace oil with other forms of energy, especially in mobile uses.

Why do that, anyway?

To “free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long,” Obama suggested.

The argument here seems to be that oil’s undesirable because gasoline prices fluctuate.

Yet prices of other energy forms change, too. Have any of Obama’s speech writers checked ethanol’s price history?

In fact, the utterances about price spikes and shifting off oil seem designed to appeal to visceral wishes ungrounded in physical or economic reality. They’re rah-rah lines. Who wouldn’t want energy as convenient and cheap as oil that didn’t have oil’s disadvantages? Who wouldn’t want energy prices never to change—unless they start out as high as, say, transport fuels that aren’t oil?

The real world can’t satisfy those desires, and no amount of research will make it do so.

Obama leads by gushing grand ambition. On energy, this approach leans too heavily on popular fantasy, making his agenda, even the possibly practical elements of it, consistently incoherent.

(Online Feb. 15, 2013; author’s e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

Related Articles

Why rush to okay Keystone XL now? Politics, of course

11/14/2014 From outside the US, a sudden rush to approve the Keystone XL pipeline must be puzzling. Isn’t this the project not acted upon for 6 years and coun...

Saudis have reasons better than shale to let prices fall

11/07/2014 Only by overlooking important forces in markets and politics can anyone assert that Saudi Arabia is letting crude prices fall mainly to extinguish ...

Business mood dark as questions hover over UK offshore

10/31/2014

Falling oil prices, rising costs, and looming political questions darken the business mood about the UK offshore.

Europe hikes stakes in costly quest for climate leadership

10/24/2014 “No player in the world is as ambitious as the [European Union],” declared European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso after the EU extended ...

EPA sets energy booby traps for the US economy

10/17/2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency is setting booby traps for the economy as the last half term of the Obama presidency lumbers into view.

Study: Energy jobs extrasensitive to oil-price changes

10/11/2014

As oil prices fall, speculation naturally arises about winners and losers in the event a decline of the moment becomes something more severe.

Happy coincidence underlies Obama’s oil and gas boasts

10/03/2014

American political custom allows presidents to take credit for whatever economic joy arises while they’re in office.

Abysmal discussion on climate change touches new lows

09/26/2014

The acrimony that masquerades as discussion about climate change touched new lows before a United Nations summit on the topic in New York.

Price of gasoline important to US policy (sometimes)

09/19/2014

The price of gasoline is important in the making of US energy policy—except when it is not.

White Papers

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Increase Equipment Uptime Through Robust Enterprise Asset Management

Whether you operate in the Upstream Drilling and Exploration sector, the Midstream distribution sector...
Sponsored by

Continuous Improvement for Maintenance with Robust Reporting and Analytics

You should have real-time, anywhere access to more relevant and comprehensive data to help manage and ...
Sponsored by

Enterprise Asset Management Solution for Movable Assets in the Oil & Gas Industry

Drilling and exploration companies face several challenges in effectively managing assets both offshor...
Sponsored by

Supporting HSE Needs for Oil & Gas Through Effective Asset Management Practices

The Oil & Gas industry is constantly being challenged to find, extract and deliver cheaper an...
Sponsored by

Sesam for subsea design analysis

With the exponential growth in the subsea sector, a new set of challenges now face the industry. Mostl...
Sponsored by

Is the gas delivery system you’re looking at able to meet your power generation needs: a hydraulic engineer’s perspective

The hydraulic characteristics, and system response to demands and supplies, of natural gas pipelines a...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts



Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

When Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected