A.J. DiCintio
Coal powered "electric" cars not Obama's biggest energy problem
By A.J. DiCintio
March 25, 2012

The truth about electric cars is this: Every child who has mastered simple addition and spent a minute gathering information from an energy website is capable of creating a hand-colored pie chart showing that nearly half of the electricity used to "fuel up" an electric vehicle is produced by coal, with the size of the slice growing to a hair less than 90% of the circle when electricity produced by natural gas and uranium is included.

Now, what a boon to the nation it would be if those grade schoolers would share their report with all the grownups in their lives, motivating them to do some hard thinking about the Barack Obama who once said he favors bankrupting the coal industry through strict emission standards and the President Barack Obama who has promised to buy a Chevy Volt as soon as he is finished with his stint in the Oval Office.

But whether we ascribe the president's infatuation with electric cars to gross ignorance (highly unlikely) or rank expediency, raging hypocrisy, and mindless ideological blindness (exceedingly likely), the truth is that it pales in comparison to the most important fact about him and America's energy problem, which is this:

Dismissive of hard reality in favor of the imagined world dreamed into being by centralized government loving ideologues, his energy vision is as intellectually insubstantial as the rest of the vaporous change he asks us to hope in. Therefore, it guarantees a future of ever worsening economic and social pain.

So, while supposed intellect Obama prefers to discuss the crucially important issue of energy by intoning empty generalities and attacking his opponents with the juvenile snickering and name calling that are his trademarks, the great majority of the public will choose to make its energy judgments based upon the following realities.

At the top of the list is this truth: The nation requires tremendous amounts of energy for which no alternatives exist in the foreseeable future, even if cost were not a factor.

To be precise, the U.S. annually consumes one billion tons of coal, seven billion barrels of oil, twenty-four trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 15 tons of refined uranium.

Putting into perspective the task faced by anyone who argues that significant amounts of those four fuels can be replaced in the years ahead is this fact about U.S. electrical production:

America's stunningly powerful hydroelectric dams account for only 6% of national electrical output and "other renewables" a mere 4%.

Moreover, there is the reality that world energy consumption will increase dramatically during the coming decades (think of the growing economies of China and India with their combined population of 2.5 billion). In fact, Obama's own Department of Energy predicts it will increase 23% over 2008 levels by 2020 and 53% by 2035.

That increasing demand explains why the DOE also forecasts an increase in the use of coal to produce electricity over the same period and why there isn't a sane person who follows the energy business who doesn't foresee rising demand as causing higher prices, a reality exacerbated by the high cost of "green" energy.

Stated simply, the energy problem we are experiencing now, absent a revolutionary discovery that is not currently in the cards, will get worse as the years pass.

Therefore, the question we should be asking about energy is this: "Will the current energy problem become an energy disaster?"

And the answer to that question is, "It need not."

Unfortunately for America, however, this president can't bring himself to speak about and act upon the problem with a focus on its scientific, technological, and statistical realities, not, by the way, because doing so lies outside his "pay grade" but because it is inimical to the statist, Pollyannaish dogmas of his lifelong radical liberalism.

That radicalism explains why he has failed to use every power of his office to promote the full, immediate, environmentally sound development of the country's enormous natural gas resources, thereby making a real start on ending America's dependence on foreign oil, doing something real to help keep energy prices down, and creating tens of thousands of good jobs in the drilling industry, the drilling supply and support industry, the engine conversion business, and businesses that will manufacture, install, and maintain natural gas fueling facilities at currently existing gas stations and truck stops.

It explains why he has directed bureaucrats to reduce the number of permits for drilling on federal land and federally controlled waters, again depriving the nation of additional energy supply while failing to increase the number of good jobs available for Americans desperately in need of them.

It explains why he has directed government agencies to subsidize politically well-connected companies such as Solyndra instead of doing everything he can to promote research toward creating photovoltaic cells that produce electricity at the fossil fuel price.

After all, if an unsubsidized photovolatic industry can't get to the point at which it reprises the astonishing private sector phenomenon that occurred in the fifties, when in a few years the nation's rooftops grew a forest of aluminum trees that sent signals to the new piece of living room furniture called the "television," it will never play a significant role in solving the energy problem.

And it explains why Obama has failed to shift existing government research funds not just to expand the quest to control nuclear fusion but infuse it with the compelling immediacy of the Manhattan Project; for today, fusion represents the world's only hope for eventually providing abundant, clean, low cost energy to a planet likely populated by more than its current 7 billion energy devouring human beings.

In closing, it is necessary to return to the hard thinking about the president mentioned at the outset by offering the following information to citizens who think it wise to hope Barack Obama will change his liberal spots before he allows the nation to crash and burn on the road of energy disaster.

In a recent issue of the NY Post, Charles Gasparino reported the following about GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who has spent three years on the job as Obama's economics adviser:

"Friends describe Immelt as privately dismayed that . . . President Obama hasn't moved to the center, but instead further left. . . [in] everything from [his] class-warfare rhetoric to his continued belief that big government is the key to economic salvation."

Gasparino then closes with this quote from an Immelt friend:

"Jeff thought he could make a difference, and now realizes he couldn't."

That insight into the real Obama tells us all we really need to know not just about the president and energy but every other problem confronting the man asking us to give him another term to serve as guide to and guardian of this nation's future.

© A.J. DiCintio


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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A.J. DiCintio

A.J. DiCintio posts regularly at RenewAmerica and YourNews.com. He first exercised his polemical skills arguing with friends on the street corners of the working class neighborhood where he grew up. Retired from teaching, he now applies those skills, somewhat honed and polished by experience, to social/political affairs.


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