Obama's Energy Policy vs. Reality

The president has built a fantasy world around solving our nation's energy problems, says Michael Steele.

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President Obama unveils a clean-energy business initiative. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Summertime, and the living won't be easy. From electricity to groceries to clothing, the cost of everything you need, and of most things you want, has increased. But there are few places where Americans have felt the sting of higher prices more profoundly than at the gas pump. And you don't have to own a car to feel it; just get on a plane, take the train -- heck, catch a cab.

As we begin to pack up the family car for that long-awaited summer vacation at Grandma's house, a gallon of gasoline averages $3.80, $1.07 more than this time last year. Maybe you can just email Grandma a photo of the kids instead.

Or better yet, maybe President Barack Obama could address workers at a research facility funded by a $528.7 million stimulus-act grant to develop a new alternative mode of energy-efficient transportation: airborne porcine units (also known as "flying pigs"). Although the facility won't have produced a commercially viable prototype, Obama could go on to express confidence that, with additional government investment (aka "spending"), the needed technology breakthroughs would be achieved. I can hear him now: "When pigs fly, my energy policies will be vindicated, and the taxpayer dollars we have committed to this effort will greatly lessen our dependence on foreign oil."

Fantasy? Of course, but then again, taxpayers are on the hook for a $528.7 million loan to a company seeking to make plug-in electric cars that the Obama administration announced with great fanfare in 2009. The result? That company recently breathlessly announced that it plans to sell a car for the bargain price of $96,850 that charges in "as little as six hours" and has -- wait for it -- a 50-mile range before a backup gasoline engine kicks in.

If all goes well (and it hasn't so far), the company says, it hopes to sell, eventually, 15,000 vehicles per year worldwide. That is less than 1/100th of 1 percent of the vehicles now on America's roads. For this we spent more than $500 million?

President Obama also flew into Kansas City, Mo., to tout Smith Electric Vehicles, a firm that received Recovery Act funds to build all-electric, zero-emissions commercial trucks as "the promise of a brighter future." The reality, though, is that nearly the same percentage of Americans will commute to work today on flying pigs as will pull out of their driveways in fully electric vehicles -- a real taxpayer-subsidized panacea that the president claims will solve our energy problems.

Hope is not a strategy, and wishful thinking is not a policy. And yet when it comes to energy, the president is literally tilting at some pretty expensive windmills.

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The Real Energy Challenge for America

In a fall 2007 article for the Journal of International Security Affairs, I noted that in the era of global terror, security of the oil supply had trumped pricing of that supply in the energy calculus. For decades, U.S. energy policy was based on creating a military defense umbrella around the Arabian Peninsula in order to guarantee the steady supply of crude oil from exporters like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Iraq.