Tomorrow, President Obama will be speaking on energy security. If his speech will be anything like prior speeches, he'll mention wind and solar in the same breath as natural gas, nuclear power, and clean coal as part of an "all of the above" strategy. If he's smart, he'll mention that the most secure energy is the energy not used, whether it's as simple as energy efficiency or as complex as a Strategic Coal Reserve, and the most secure energy to be used is the one that renews in perpetuity.
Republicans demand an "all of the above" energy strategy, ostensibly in the name of "energy security" - American independence from foreign oil. But do they really want America to not have to depend on Mideast oil, or is their interest simply in maximizing private profits? A review of recent headlines suggests a pattern.
1. Oil leasing:
Today, the Department of the Interior released a report on oil and gas lease utilization (pdf) concluding, in essence, that the industry has tens of millions of acres of leases, both onshore and offshore, sitting idle. From the White House blog on drilling down:
When it comes to onshore oil and gas development, nearly 57 percent of all leased acres are inactive – meaning they are neither being explored nor developed. In total, 22 million leased onshore acres – acres already in the hands of oil and gas companies – are not being used. That’s roughly the size of Indiana.
Use of offshore leases is even more striking. Over 70 percent of the tens of millions of offshore acres under lease are inactive. In the Gulf of Mexico alone, there are nearly 24 million inactive leased acres. That’s about the size of Kentucky. DOI estimates that this area includes approximately 11.6 billion barrels of oil and nearly 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
That's why Democrats have authored a "use it or lose it" bill requiring oil companies to use the leases for actual energy production rather than speculation. The Republican response is to introduce three bills to expand offshore leasing, all ostensibly in the name of "energy security."
2. Coal leasing:
Last week Obama announced a massive expansion of Powder River Basin (Wyoming) coal. Where is the coal going? Not to power homes in Wyoming or farms in Oregon - it's going to export terminals in Vancouver, British Columbia and - if coal companies have their way - two new terminals in Washington and thence to China. One of the terminals, SSA Marine, has already signed contracts with Peabody Energy to export Wyoming coal. Blogger Jeff Biggers, contending that the expansion was undertaken to benefit Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: "Everyone in the coal biz also knows that last week's spring sale giveaway in Wyoming has as much to do with a controversial and impending coal export terminal proposed in the state of Washington -- and geared toward Asian markets -- as U.S. markets.
At a time when rising corn acreage fails to meet US food and ethanol use, Brazil plans to import US ethanol to defeat rising prices in that country. If ethanol has anything to do with energy security - an increasingly tenuous proposition - shouldn't we be looking to rising prices and needs in the United States first?
Not content with feeding China's appetite for coal, some in Wyoming want to export that state's uranium. Nuclear regulators have drawn a line: Wyoming uranium can't be exported to Russia. However, in the name of "energy security," it's all right to build a huge new nuclear reactor 20 miles from the San Andreas fault and export waste to France.
Isn't it high time that politicians stop the pretense of pursuing fossil fuels in the name of energy security, and simply admit that they're doing it because they can't or won't change the nation's energy policy?