Is Obama’s new energy plan “blowing green smoke”?

James Kunstler says Obama’s new energy proposal is green smoke. He details why the one-third reduction in oil imports Obama wants within a decade will happen whether we are ready or not. Making things worse, the US remains utterly dependent on automobiles and has no substitute plan.

But Obama’s plan isn’t really green at all. Instead he wants more drilling for oil and natural gas, with a switch to natural gas powered vehicles and electric cars. He also wants higher mileage standards for vehicles and to mandate that utilities purchase 80% of their power from “cleaner” resources, which in Obama-speak, includes nuclear and clean coal. Right, let’s ask Japan how clean they think nuclear power is now. And just so you know, clean coal isn’t.

The plan also includes more biofuel, but until there are genuine breakthroughs, biofuel is not economically feasible. The current federal government emphasis on corn ethanol is wasteful, inefficient, and a deliberate giveaway to agribusiness.

Obama’s proposal seems more of his usual lofty speechmaking with little to back it up.

There are a few things you can state categorically about the US energy predicament and the national conversation we’re having about it – including the leaders of that conversation in government, business, and the media. One is that we are blowing a lot of green smoke up our collective ass. None of these schemes is going to work as advertised. The disappointment over them will be massive and probably lead to awful political consequences.

What we need is more mass transit, walkable communities, and an immediate push to energy efficiency at all levels. Just getting efficient and smart about how we use energy and fuel would cut consumption drastically, with very little pain.

One comment

  1. Real alternative energy? Let’s take an example: I raise goats and make cheese. We compost our manure, which is far better for the environment than slurrying it as the big cattle operations do. But we could do better….

    It should be possible to use that manure/straw mixture (not to mention the whey from our cheese) to produce methane here at the farm, which we could use to heat the milk for making cheese. Since heat is the single largest input (currently supplied by propane with some solar preheating), that would have a significant and measurable impact on our fossil fuel consumption.

    Such small-scale manure-to-methane designs are common in Central America. Plans are available on the internet. But without the expertise, how is a farmer to know which designs work and for what applications? Yet there is little to no support for such technology in this country. We subsidize negative impacts like corn ethanol, but for proven technologies that could make a real difference? Nothing.

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