Opinion: Columnists

Demolish all the buildings, then put them back green

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What did Wednesday's first presidential debate tell us about the energy policy of President Obama versus former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney?

Obama said, "I think it's important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America." He argued that he was doing so, based on increased oil and gas production. Romney's reply: "Yeah, but not due to his policies. In spite of his policies."

I've written in previous columns how Obama has staked his presidency on the land-gobbling wind-and-solar bundle of renewable money sponges, in stark contrast to the "all-out, all-of-the-above" rhetoric that still echoes from his State of the Union speech early this year. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and New Mexico Rep. Stevan Pearce, both Republicans, put it even more bluntly in their 24-page joint report from the two chambers' Western Caucuses. Its title: "Beyond Belief: The Obama Administration's All Out, None-of-the-Above Energy Strategy."

The short version: Obama's energy policy is "say one thing, do another." Obama campaigners look for votes in a coal state and praise coal. Obamacrats in the Environmental Protection Agency make rules that eliminate coal in the name of climate change to get green votes and money.

During Obama's term, his allies in Big Green coalitions have crushed fossil fuels, nuclear power and hydroelectric dams in the courts. Obama appointees have failed to rein in these groups -- even though they seem to think they have the power to do so.

For example, when Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation in 2009, Barrasso opposed her confirmation, fearing that "special interest groups are scheming to sue the EPA to prosecute hospitals, farms, nursing homes, commercial buildings and any other small emitter of greenhouse gases," with devastating consequences.

McCarthy assured Barrasso that only large emitters would be regulated, but did not rule out the possibility that lawsuits might force the EPA to regulate smaller sources. If that happened, "I will follow up with the potential litigants." Incredibly, McCarthy was suggesting she could stop Big Green from filing lawsuits.

McCarthy was subsequently confirmed and has zealously enforced Obama's "none of the above" energy agenda, with no apparent efforts to stop green lawsuits.

Obama routinely overstates the importance of renewable energies, such as solar and wind power, making them the centerpiece of America's electricity mix. His own Energy Information Administration tells a different story. It projects that electricity generation from all renewable sources (including hydropower dams) will fill only 15 percent of the total need for electricity in the U.S. by 2035.

Where's the other 85 percent coming from? Nowhere, if you believe a new analysis from the U.S. Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "California's Energy Future: Portraits of Energy Systems for Meeting Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets" says that meeting the California Global Warming Solutions Act mandate -- emissions must drop 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 -- is "possible, but difficult."

The devilish detail is on Page 5: Just getting to 60 percent with technologies available today would take ridiculous measures: "We found that all buildings would either have to be demolished, retrofitted or built new to very high efficiency standards, that vehicles of all sorts would need to be made significantly more efficient, and that industrial processes would need to advance beyond technology available today."

The EIA predicts a more likely future: Eighty-five percent of American energy in 2035 will come from natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear, and hydroelectric dams. If Big Green and the executive branch keep killing off the wellsprings of those American energies, the survivors will be left freezing in the dark.

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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