Obama Pledges Continued Dependence on Foreign Oil

Here’s the snippet from Sen. Obama’s energy plan (pdf):

Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars—cars that that can get up to 150 miles per gallon—on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America

and characterizes it, in concert with the rest of his energy plan, as achieving energy independence.

Glenn Reynolds concentrates on the problems there would be in providing enough electricity for the new fleet, a problem I’ve commented on myself. Note, too, that as I’ve pointed out before just improving the energy transmission resources to move the additional energy required from where it’s produced to where it’s needed brings practically every state, county, and local government in the country into the act. If you think the problems we’ve seen with the Congress agreeing on an energy plan have been dismaying, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

And please don’t tell me that the energy will be generated by solar panels on our roofs. Even assuming the enormous capital investment and ramping up of production in an impossibly short time, that amount of power can’t be generated that way.

Just for the sake of argument let’s assume that the plug-in hybrids exist (they don’t, at least not in production), that they’re produced in the U. S. (we aren’t producing the current crop of hybrids here), and that “production in the U. S.” means more than just assembly (we don’t produce any of the critical batteries for hybrids and I know of no plans to do so in the foreseeable future), and that the production of batteries can be scaled up at the necessary rate (given past experience I’m skeptical of that and see no reason to believe that it can be). Even given those powerful assumptions under Sen. Obama’s plan by the end of his presidency 90% of the cars sold in the U. S. will require gasoline as their primary fuel. That is de facto a pledge that we will be dependent on foreign oil for the foreseeable future, certainly well into the 21st century.

What would I have Sen. Obama do? Stop the bluster about dependence on foreign oil. Orient his policies towards continuing and more constructive engagement with the Middle East than we’ve had. That’s going to be necessary since the producers in the Middle East are the low cost producers and, consequently, influence price regardless of where the oil we consume is actually produced.

I’ve got to admit that the disconnect between means and ends really bugs me. I wish that presidential candidates could decide on objectives that are consistent with their principles, would rely on their advisors to propose means that would accomplish those ends in a realistic timeframe and at a practical cost, and, if those things couldn’t be achieved, would change their objectives to what could be accomplished.

Don’t just tell me your dreams, tell me how you’ll achieve your dreams.

2 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Well said, people need to define their energy policy objectives: Do you want cheap energy? Do you want to reduce foreign dependence? Or reduce dependence on certain states? Do you want to improve balance of trade? Do you want to make U.S. jobs? Do you want to reduce CO2 emissions? Do you want low pollution energy? Do you want to eliminate petro as the standard mobile fuel source altogether?

    The two magic pony policies: More drilling and More efficiency probably don’t do many of these things very well, if at all.

    I think I support doing nothing.

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