• Mar 30th 2011 at 12:52PM
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Today, President Obama will outline a new target for the White House energy policy, one that focuses on variety. According to news reports, the plan will include ways to generate more low-carbon electricity, reduce reliance on foreign oil, expand domestic oil production and ethanol production and push up the amount of natural gas used in vehicles.

The New York Times says that the administration has been asking "outside groups" for their input in order to get the widest possible consensus on the matter. In fact, the President is so confident in the plan that the Times' headline on the story says he is "daring Republicans to call it 'Froufrou.'" Here are some highlights:
  • By 2015, the federal government will only buy alt-fuel vehicles.
  • By 2025, oil imports will be reduced by a third through lowering consumption and increasing domestic drilling (does this make more sense now?).
  • One suggestion on the electricity front is to have different energy goals in different regions. So, for example, places with more and reliable wind would be encouraged to build out more wind turbines. On top of this, dirty energy areas might be able to (or have to) buy clean energy credits from areas that are able to generate extra clean energy.
  • The White House wants "the nation to break ground on four new commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced biofuel refineries to produce ethanol in the next two years," the The Wall Street Journal writes.

*UPDATE: Read the full text of the President's speech after the jump.

[Sources: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal | Photo: Whitehouse.gov]
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Remarks of President Barack Obama-As Prepared for Delivery
A Secure Energy Future
Georgetown University
March 30, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery-

We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world. In a matter of months, we've seen regimes toppled and democracy take root across North Africa and the Middle East. We've witnessed a terrible earthquake, catastrophic tsunami and nuclear emergency batter a strong ally and the world's third largest economy. And we've led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region.

As Americans, we are heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events. We are moved by the thirst for freedom in many nations, as well as the strength and perseverance of the Japanese people. And of course, it's natural to feel anxious about what all this means for us.

One area of particular concern has been the cost and security of our energy. In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody – workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners. Businesses see it hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder.

But here's the thing – we've been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. Working folks haven't forgotten that. It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.

The truth is, of course, was that all these gimmicks didn't make a bit of difference. When gas prices finally fell, it was mostly because the global recession led to less demand for oil. Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up. Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it's not surprising oil prices are higher. And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents.

The point is, the ups and downs in gas prices are usually temporary. When you look at the long-term trends, though, there will be more ups than downs. That's because countries like India and China are growing at a rapid clip. And as two billion more people start consuming more goods, and driving more cars, and using more energy, it's certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply.

So here's the bottom line – there are no quick fixes. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy.

We've known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades. Presidents and politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet. I've pledged to reduce America's dependence on oil too, and I'm proud of the historic progress we've made over the last two years towards that goal. But we've also run into the same political gridlock and inertia that's held us back for decades.

That has to change.

We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again. The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out. Not anymore. Not when the cost to our economy, our country, and our planet is so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right.

It is time to do what we can to secure our energy future.

So today, I'm setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.

I set this goal knowing that imported oil will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, we can partner with neighbors like Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, which recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and with whom we can share American technology and know-how.

But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard. And we boast one critical, renewable resource the rest of the world cannot match: American ingenuity.

To make ourselves more secure – to control our energy future – we will need to harness that ingenuity. It is a task that won't be finished by the end of my presidency, or even the next. But if we continue the work that we have already begun over the last two years, we won't just spark new jobs, industries and innovations; we will leave your generation and future generations a country that is safer, healthier, and more prosperous.

Today, my Administration is releasing a Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future that outlines the comprehensive national energy policy we've pursued since the day I took office. And here at Georgetown, I'd like to talk in broad strokes about how we will secure that future.

Meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

This begins by continuing to increase America's oil supply. Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half the liquid fuel we consumed.

To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my Administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production – as long as it's safe and responsible. I don't think anyone's forgotten that we're not even a year removed from the largest oil spill in our history. I know the people of the Gulf Coast haven't. What we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility – for example, if you're going to drill in deepwater, you've got to prove that you can actually contain an underwater spill. That's just common sense.

Today, we're working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these standards. Since they were put in place, we've approved 39 new shallow water permits; and we've approved an additional 7 deepwater permits in recent weeks. When it comes to drilling onshore, my Administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill. So any claim that my Administration is responsible for gas prices because we've "shut down" oil production might make for a useful political sound bite – but it doesn't track with reality.

In fact, we are pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities they already have. Right now, the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where it's not producing a drop – sitting on supplies of American energy just waiting to be tapped. That's why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources. We're also exploring and assessing new frontiers for oil and gas development from Alaska to the Mid- and South Atlantic. Because producing more oil in America can help lower oil prices, create jobs, and enhance our energy security.

But let's be honest – it's not the long-term solution to our energy challenge. America holds only about two percent of the world's proven oil reserves. And even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every one of those reserves, it still wouldn't be enough to meet our long-term needs.

All of this means one thing: the only way for America's energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil. We have to find ways to boost our efficiency so that we use less oil. We have to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy with less of the carbon pollution that threatens our climate. And we have to do it quickly.

In terms of new sources of energy, we have a few different options. The first is natural gas. As I mentioned earlier, recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves – perhaps a century's worth – in the shale under our feet. Now, we have to make sure we're doing it safely, without polluting our water supply. And that's why I'm asking my Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, to work with other agencies, the natural gas industry, states, and environmental experts to improve the safety of this process. I don't know if you've heard, but he's got a Nobel Prize for physics, after all. He likes to tinker on this stuff in his garage on the weekend.

But the potential here is enormous. It's actually an area of broad bipartisan agreement. Last year, more than 150 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle proposed legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. They were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil. So I ask them to keep at it and pass a bill that helps us achieve this goal.

Another substitute for oil that holds tremendous promise is renewable biofuels – not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass, wood chips, and biomass.

If anyone doubts the potential of these fuels, consider Brazil. Already, more than half – half – of Brazil's vehicles can run on biofuels. And just last week, our Air Force used an advanced biofuel blend to fly an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. In fact, the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016. And I'm directing the Navy and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced biofuels that can power not just fighter jets, but trucks and commercial airliners.

So there's no reason we shouldn't be using these renewable fuels throughout America. That's why we're investing in things like fueling stations and research into the next generation of biofuels. Over the next two years, we'll help entrepreneurs break ground on four next-generation biorefineries – each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year. And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure they meet today's challenges and save taxpayers money.

As we replace oil with fuels like natural gas and biofuels, we can also reduce our dependence by making cars and trucks that use less oil in the first place. After all, 70 percent of our petroleum consumption goes to transportation. And so does the second biggest chunk of most families' budgets. That's why one of the best ways to make our economy less dependent on oil and save folks more money is simply to make our transportation more efficient.

Last year, we established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks. Our cars will get better gas mileage, saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. Our consumers will save money from fewer trips to the pump – $3,000 on average over time. And our automakers will build more innovative products. Right now, there are even cars rolling off assembly lines in Detroit with combustion engines that can get more than 50 miles per gallon.

Going forward, we'll continue working with automakers, autoworkers and states to ensure that the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars and trucks of tomorrow are built right here in America. This summer, we'll propose the first-ever fuel efficiency standard for heavy-duty trucks. And this fall, we'll announce the next round of fuel standards for cars that builds on what we've done.

To achieve our oil goal, the federal government will lead by example. The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country. That's why we've already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet, and that's why, today, I am directing agencies to purchase 100% alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015. And going forward, we'll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets.

We've also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering Americans – urban, suburban, and rural – the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.

Still, there are few breakthroughs as promising for increasing fuel efficiency and reducing our dependence on oil as electric vehicles. Soon after I took office, I set a goal to have one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. We've created incentives for American companies to develop these vehicles, and for Americans who want to buy them. New manufacturing plants are opening over the next few years. And a modest, $2 billion investment in competitive grants for companies to develop the next generation of batteries for these cars has jumpstarted a big new American industry. Soon, America will be home to 40 percent of global manufacturing capacity for these batteries. And that means jobs. But to make sure we stay on the road to this goal, we need to do more – by offering more powerful incentives to consumers, and by rewarding the communities that pave the way for adoption of these vehicles.

Now, the thing about electric cars is that, well, they run on electricity. And even if we reduce our oil dependency, a smart, comprehensive energy policy requires that we change the way we generate electricity in America – so that it's cleaner, safer, and healthier. And by the way – we also know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses – jobs that we want right here in America.

Part of this change comes from wasting less energy. Today, our homes and businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use, costing us billions in energy bills. Manufacturers that require large amounts of energy to make their products are challenged by rising energy costs. That's why we've proposed new programs to help Americans upgrade their homes and businesses and plants with new, energy-efficient building materials like lighting, windows, heating and cooling – investments that will save consumers and business owners tens of billions of dollars a year, free up money for investment and hiring, and create jobs for workers and contractors.

And just like the fuels we use, we also have to find cleaner, renewable sources of electricity. Today, about two-fifths of our electricity comes from clean energy sources. But I know that we can do better than that. In fact, I think that with the right incentives in place, we can double it. That's why, in my State of the Union Address, I called for a new Clean Energy Standard for America: by 2035, 80 percent of our electricity will come from an array of clean energy sources, from renewables like wind and solar to efficient natural gas to clean coal and nuclear power.

Now, in light of ongoing events in Japan, I want to say another word about nuclear power. America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy. It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I'm determined to ensure that it's safe. That's why I've requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that all of our existing nuclear energy facilities are safe. We'll incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in designing and building the next generation of plants. And my Administration is leading global discussions towards a new international framework in which all countries operate their nuclear plants without spreading dangerous nuclear materials and technology.

A Clean Energy Standard will broaden the scope of clean energy investment by giving cutting-edge companies the certainty they need to invest in America. In the 1980s, America was home to more than 80 percent of the world's wind capacity, and 90 percent of its solar capacity. We owned the clean energy economy. But today, China has the most wind capacity. Germany has the most solar. Both invest more than we do in clean energy. Other countries are exporting technology we pioneered and chasing the jobs that come with it because they know that the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy.

I want America to be that nation. I want America to win the future.

A Clean Energy Standard will help drive private investment. But government funding will be critical too. Over the past two years, the historic investments we've made in clean and renewable energy research and technology have helped private sector companies grow and hire hundreds of thousands of new workers. I've visited gleaming new solar arrays among the largest in the world, tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line, and toured once-shuttered factories where they're building advanced wind blades as long as a 747 and the towers to support them. I've seen the scientists searching for that next big energy breakthrough. And none of this would have happened without government support.

Now, in light of our tight fiscal situation, it's fair to ask how we'll pay for all of it. As we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we have to make tough choices. We'll have to cut what we don't need to invest in what we do need. Unfortunately, some want to cut these critical investments in clean energy. They want to cut our research and development into new technologies. They're even shortchanging the resources necessary to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs, terminate scientists and engineers, and end fellowships for researchers, graduate students and other talent we desperately need for the 21st century.

See, we are already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump; every time we lose a job or a business to countries that invest more than we do in clean energy; when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet you'll inherit – we are already paying that price. These are the costs we're already bearing. And if we do nothing, that price will only go up.

At a moment like this, sacrificing these investments would weaken our energy security and make us more dependent on oil, not less. That's not a game plan to win the future. That's a vision to keep us mired in the past. And I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America.

I want to close by speaking directly to the people who will be writing America's next great chapter – the students gathered here today.

The issue of energy independence is one that America has been talking about since before your parents were your age. On top of that, you go to school in a town that, for a long time, has suffered from a chronic unwillingness to come together and make tough choices. Because of all this, you'd be forgiven for thinking that maybe there isn't much we can do to rise to our challenges.

But everything I have seen and experienced with your generation convinces me otherwise. I believe it is precisely because you have come of age in a time of rapid and sometimes unsettling change – born into a world with fewer walls, educated in an era of information, tempered by war and economic turmoil – that you believe, as deeply as any of our generations, that America can change for the better.

We need that. We need you to dream big. We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism, that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness – to save democracy, to touch the moon, to connect the world with our own science and imagination.

That is what America is capable of. And it is that very history that teaches us that all of our challenges – all of them – are within our power to solve.

I don't want to leave this challenge for future presidents. I don't want to leave it for my children. And I do not want to leave it for yours. Solving it will take time and effort. It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies, and, most importantly, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between – to do our part. But with confidence – in America, in ourselves, and in one another – I know it is a challenge we will solve.

Thank you. God Bless You, and God Bless the United States of America.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nothing Obama announced really hits the nail on the head.

      Domestic drilling is completely pointless, since OPEC essentially controls the world supply (more than 78% to our less than 2%) and thus the price. Even “domestic” oil enriches the enemy by making available oil more scarce, enabling them to charge more for what they sell. Not only that, our oil is more expensive to extract and less desirable in the marketplace (heavy sour crude compared to their light sweet).

      Fuel efficiency is the left’s version of domestic drilling – a futile policy that misses the point. Even if we all consumed less oil, OPEC could just cut production to match, spike the per-unit price, and make just as much as before despite the lower sales volume. And we’d be paying just as much, having the money taken out of our economy and our family budgets, for less oil for our newly cramped, slow, weak, fragile cars as we were paying before for our “wasteful” roomy, fast, powerful, robust cars.

      Obama’s “incentives” for biofuel and natural gas cars are not completely futile, since they at least begin to address the key problem that cars can’t run on anything but oil derived fuel, but they are nothing new. We have had similar policies for decades and the vast majority of our cars are still “locked in” to only being able to run on gasoline or petroleum diesel – a/k/a Enemy Fuels.

      What would be a REAL game-changer is to simply abandon the indirect and ineffective incentive-based approach and cut the Gordian knot. Require that all new cars sold in America be able to run on something other than petroleum fuel. Making gasoline cars “flex fuel” – able to run on not just gasoline but also equally easily on any alcohol fuel like methanol or ethanol – is a relatively trivial engineering and design change for automakers, costing them only $130 per new car at the factory. That’s why making flex fuel a required standard like seat belts would not be burdensome, and in fact would pave the way for an automotive and overall economic renaissance as customers no longer feared on oil price spike.

      THAT is the key nelgected policy that remains all but ignored. The irony is that it is achievable. Both Obama (see the top of page 5 http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/factsheet_energy_speech_080308.pdf ) and McCain ( http://www.setamericafree.org/wordpress/?p=413) promised a flex fuel mandate in the 2008 campaign (the latter if the auto industry didn’t implement the standard on its own). Hardcore conservatives in Congress such as Roscoe Bartlett, Jack Kingston, and Saw Brownback have backed the proposed Open Fuel Standards Act, as have outside conservative opinion leaders such as Frank Gaffney, Cliff May, and more. All Obama has to do is consult his own 2008 campaign promise and at least try to keep his word.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Fuel efficiency is the left’s version of domestic drilling – a futile policy that misses the point"

        You are fundamentally wrong and really nead to put away the dogmatictic ethanol fanboy propaganda and do some basic math.

        We consume over 300 Billion gallons of oil per year. Ethanol, while consuming 40% of US corn production supplies 13 Billion gallons. So even if we converted ALL US corn production to ethanol, leaving nothing left for food or animal feed, it would only account for ~10% of oil consumption... that is not going to do the trick.

        By comparison, efficiency makes a far greater difference. In 2007 in the US, we consumed 68.7 barrels per day per 1000 people. In Germany in 2007 (a country with a similar overall climate and more manufacturing output) they consumed 29.8 bbl/day/1000 people. In otherwords, by improving efficiency to levels already achieved by other powerful economies, we can cut oil consumption by 57%... or more than 5 times what can be accomplished by converting all corn to ethanol. And Germany also consumes half the electricity per capita, while producing far more of what they do consume through renewables.

        Efficiency is simply the best way to reduce dependance, and, if we follow Germany's lead, would get us the majority of the way there. Ethanol is a way for agribusiness to make a lot of money.
        • 4 Years Ago
        mylexicon, you're right that the Saudis generally prefer to subject us and the rest of the world to a slow cruel long lasting squeeze rather than a sudden shock. Sometimes, however, the greed ratchets up slowly in the moment but with a big effect over time. They could have stopped and reversed the runup in oil prices from $10 a barrel in 1999 to $140 a barrel in 2008, but they enjoyed the hundreds of billions in extra money too much, and it didn't look like the goose would stop laying golden eggs. Finally in 2008 the oil price burden became too much for the economy to bear, and the economy collapsed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Carney, I don't think you understand how OPEC works.

        OPEC doesn't like volatility. The unpredictable upward price volatility is just as undesirable to them as the reckless exploitation of their assets. Upward price volatility brings economic collapse and the potential threat of alternative energy. If you are the King of Saudi Arabia, the last thing you want to do is impair the value of your $30T oil fields by pumping the price back to $140-$150 per barrel. It would be the end of the Saudi monarchy, and it would spell disaster for the nation of Saudi Arabia.

        Peak oil is OPEC apocalypse b/c they lose the ability to manipulate prices (peak oil manipulates price). They are perfectly happy for the US to tap new fields and create energy saving devices. However, OPEC do not want the developed world to create alternative energy anytime soon.

        Do you see the difficulty of our situation? On one side the US cannot abandon our oil allies by creating alternative energy which will essentially collapse their societies (I'm talking about far-away exotic places like Canada). On the other side, the Chinese buy their oil fields in an archaic mercantile fashion (no political strings), and put the pedal to the medal regarding alternative energy to outmaneuver the rest of the G20. China also happens to hold all of the cards regarding rare earth metals.

        It is not possible for the US to choose one path. We have to increase our oil production and our oil efficiency so we can develop economically (with lower volatility) while buying time for our oil allies to develop a new economies. At the same time we must also create alternative energy and domestic supply so that we can transition away from oil when it is technologically, economically, and politically practical.

        Extensive development of both petroleum and alternative energy is critical. The "both" strategy is basically the way forward in everything in the US whether it is healthcare, education, or manufacturing. Given the performance of the US government over the last half decade, this new proposal is practically a miracle. Especially, the part about the government going first to test the waters rather than marching private citizens and businesses into the unknown so the government can get an idea of what lies ahead.
        • 4 Years Ago
        kl, lne937s, I already explained why brutally imposing a draconian austerity program to downgrade our standard of living to European levels is pointless sacrifice. Europe is no more free of the burden of oil dependence than we. Using less oil, when your cars are still stuck with only being able to run on oil, means you end up paying just as much as before, and OPEC gets just as much as before. It's not about how much oil you use, it's about breaking oil's monopoly.

        lne937s, saying that ethanol takes up 40% of our corn crop is misleading because it wrongly implies that there is now less food corn, or less of other staple crops. In fact, agriculture is not a zero sum game; even as ethanol corn production has risen several fold in the last decade, food corn production has risen 45%, and production of other staples such as soybeans is also up. Yes the wedge of the corn pie going to ethanol is wider, but the whole pie is bigger, meaning no net loss of food corn, quite the contrary. Only half our arable land is farmland and less than half our farmland is even cultivated. Per acre crop yields rise relentlessly, up more than 17% since 2003 alone.

        Yes, corn ethanol is not the sole solution, but it can do much more than it has. And combined with tropical ethanol and domestic methanol (which can be made from natural gas, coal, or ANY biomass), it will play a valuable role in helping make alcohol a standard alternative holding oil in check, if not an actual replacement.

        Also, you ignore that current FFVs are merely ethanol tolerant, rather than ethanol optimized - something that can change. According to some reports, the new Buick Regal has narrowed the E10 vs. E85 mileage gap to less than 5%.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You need to combine four things – and all of them in a rather massive way:

        - more efficient vehicles (smaller, lighter, less powered and better engines)
        - alternatives to gas using cars (flex fuels, hydrogen, natural gas, EVs jsut to name a few).
        - alternatives to a car at all (means public transport)
        - an infrastructure to reduce short distance travel AT ALL. Thinks like small food stores in a walk distance from nearly *every* location.

        Ever been in Europe? You have a food store every about 500m in suburban areas. And bus stops (with a bus every 15-20 minutes) every 200m. Or people just use their bike for this distance - several European cities have every fourth tour done by bike. For longer rides a 60 hp Ford Fiesta is used - or the train. Only those few driving *really* long distances on a regular base use cars like a 150 hp Mercedes C class diesel. Or an E class with 200 hp, if they want something really big.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Carney- have you been to Germany lately? It really isn't a downgrade. I know a lot of people who wouldn't mind the trade surpluses, higher manufacturing output, higher median personal income, months of vacation per year, months of maternity leave, early retirement, lower pollution, better education, better health care, better roads, better food quality, better beer, etc. that Germans enjoy.

        And while we have increased corn production, we have done it through reducing agricultural land for other crops and grazing, increasing the use of CO2 generating fertilizers, increasing the use of pesticides, increasing the use of genetically modified organisms... raising food prices and significantly increasing agricultural pollution. All that to provide the energy equivalent of 2.7% of our oil consumption-- which is roughly the equivalent to what we lose every year due to underinflated tires. It holds nothing “in check”, it just makes some agribusinesses a lot of money. All the other pie-in-the-sky schemes for other alcohol fuels do not pose any reasonable market threat to oil either. It is not an intelligent energy policy.

        So if we convert our entire current corn crop to ethanol alone, it is 1/8th the difference German efficiency would make to oil alone (not to mention total energy consumption or CO2 emissions overall). Maybe we don't go as far as they are already at, maybe we just do a fraction of what they are already doing; maybe we just concentrate on spreading more efficient technology. But even if we do a fraction of what they are already doing (much less where they soon will be), there is dramatically more to gain from German-style efficiency with dramatically less taxpayer and market burden associated than continuing to pour money and resources into the mandated ethanol boondoggle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        oops, forgot to devalue ethanol for lower energy density. Make that:

        "So even if we converted ALL US corn production to ethanol, leaving nothing left for food or animal feed, it would only account for ~7% of oil consumption"
      • 4 Years Ago
      The right is gonna pound him over this. All they understand is oil.

      He needs to get out in front and tell people "Look, we only have 5% of the crude oil reserves and we burn 25% of the oil . . . the math doesn't work. We need to move onto other sources such as electricity & natural gas."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Or to *very much* better mileage. What was the last plan about efficiency? 35 mpg by 2016? Make this 45 mpg by 2015 and we have a first step. Counting system is "miles until the first gallon is gone" - so plugin hybrids can get *very* high numbers out of this.

        Raise this by 5 mpg per year until 2020 and we have another.

        That will kill Chevy Suburban and those? That's part of the plan. Also a gain for savety for everybody in a normal car.
        That will force everybody to place a hybrid in everything and produce EVs? Another part of the plan.
        That will force car makers to introduce less powered and more subcompact cars? The third part of the plan.
        By 2020 an average car will have a 20 mile EV range _and_ use less than 50 mpg afterwards. Technically no problem: Just a Prius with a bigger battery.

        Sounds silly? Well, that's what *IS* already in the working here in Europe.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Spec you are right he needs to explain so the everyman can understand it.

        If you can't get Joe Average to understand it then good luck selling the message to the masses.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "He needs to get out in front and tell people "Look, we only have 5% of the crude oil reserves and we burn 25% of the oil . . . the math doesn't work. We need to move onto other sources such as electricity & natural gas."

        Spec, I wish I could give this comment more than 3 stars!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I take what I said back.

        His speech was very thorough and dealt with everything. The people on the right that hammer him are lying since domestic oil production in the USA has increased more during his administration than any time in the last 20 years!

      • 4 Years Ago
      I think that EVs and PHEVs will become very popular in government circles. A vast majority of government vehicles could be replaced with EVs since they do not generally travel more than 50 miles in a general day. As mentioned the Transit Connect could be a great vehicle for the USPS and the Ford Focus EV would be a great vehicle for military recruiters. Get a full size truck PHEV and a conversion van PHEV and you will be good to go. Also require the PHEVs to be flexible fuel capable and everyone would probably be happy with it. It would be capable of utilizing mostly U.S. based fuels and even then it would only use them part of the time.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "That's why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources [domestic oil industry leases]".

      What exactly does Obama mean? It sounds like more subsidies for the oil industry, which would be bad, bad!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I am not arguing your point, but if the U.S. just quit subsidizing foreign oil then fuel companies would be much more willing to use U.S. sourced products. I also feel that the EPA should perform testing with the various proposed potential alternative fuels and create fuel standards for them like we have for E-85. Also, the U.S. needs to legislate that all automobiles will be alternative fuel capable by 2020. All gasoline autos will be able to run on E85 or 100% isobutanol. All Diesel engines will be able to run on B100 and local fueling stations will be able to modify the blends as necessary in cooler climates. Also, if it does turn out that a vast majority of our future fuel source is cellulosic ethanol, then cities should consider purchasing ED95 buses from Scania.

        I personally hope that the hype that is coming from Phytonix and Joule come to fruition. Fuel from bacteria with only sources of CO2 and non-potable water seems almost seems too good to be true. I am watching these two companies very closely.

        Phytonix has a patent for producing butanol and Joule claims that they have already produced ethanol and diesel in a scale plant in Texas.

        Phytonix projects that they will be able to produce 20,000 gallons of butanol per acre per year while Joule claims that they will produce 20,000 gallons of ethanol or 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre per year.

        A lot of changes and advances in biotechnology are going on right now, and I can not wait to see how all of this works out.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Smith Electric Vehicles will have around a thousand of their Newton delivery trucks on US roads this year. In Europe the Smith Edison range is already well established and proven. Norway's postal service has just ordered its first 20 Ford Connie BEVs.

      These numbers are a mere drop in the ocean of course - but the point is that the vehicles are already proven and available - and in daily use. And that even without current subsidies, the 5-7 year cost of buying, running and maintaining them, even after allowing a generous margin of doubt on subsequent resale or trade-in values, is already looking good against diesel. (See recent Frito-Lay comments about their experience of using them and wanting more beyond the 176 they bought).

      Smith will soon be announcing their second US location, and publishing plans for listing on the US stockmarket ahead of establishing production facilities in twenty US states. Their own expectation is 100,000 electric trucks delivered within 4 years. (Obama already knows all that of course, having dropped in on the KC facility). That is still a small number in the overall scheme of things - but within a year or so I expect Ford to begin shipping the Connie BEV (Transit Connect EV) to US postal depot fleets in big numbers.

      The practicalities of using EVs in depot-based fleets are already established. The cost (especially after temporary subsidies get withdrawn) has been a major issue but is rapidly becoming less so in situations where fleet managers can weigh 5-7 year comparisons.

      And America is well placed to push on with producing commercial EVs on its own soil.
      • 4 Years Ago
      By saying alt fuels instead of specifically calling out plug-in or natural gas technologies I can only assume Barack Hussein Obama meant E85. This will be cheap but meaningless. Vehicles consume twice as much E85 as gas to traverse any given distance. Ethanol takes about about as much energy to derive it from corn as it provides. This is greenwashing at its worst.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your "facts" are wrong.

        Methanol, not ethanol, is the alcohol fuel that has half of gasoline's mileage. Ethanol has about two thirds. (Methanol has one carbon atom, ethanol two, propanol three, and butanol four - the more carbon the more BTUs per volume.) The addition of a little gasoline gives M85 about 57% of the mileage, and E85 about 71%.

        And that's with current tech that doesn't take full advantage of alcohol's higher octane. The new flex fuel Buick Regal has gone a long way to closing the mileage gap.

        In any event, you're confusing means with ends. Efficiency is not an end in itself. It was a tool to achieve an end, to mitigate gasoline's environmental, economic, and national security damage the only possible way in a gasoline-only world: by using less gasoline. If there's better, more effective way than fuel efficiency to go green, save jobs, and bankrupt terror, we should by all means embrace it, rather than get hung up on out of context distance per volume numbers.

        Also, you're extremely confused about con ethanol's energy return on investment. Even its enemies are forced to concede that it yields about 1.5 units of energy per unit expended to make it. And the most relevant measure is not energy in vs. energy out, but petroleum in vs. ethanol out, and going by that we get at least 10 and even 20 units of ethanol per unit of oil.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Am I dreaming? Using the government as a customer to create demand for products that will benefit all Americans (not just a single demographic). Comprehensive energy reform with achievable targets. Increasing energy production and reducing energy imports simultaneously. Alternative energy goals that are actually within the powers of the Federal government (energy policy and balance of trade not CO2 regulation). The government is actually taking the leap of faith first to figure out what is feasible rather than pushing consumers and industries over the edge to see what happens.

      What happened? Was I having a nightmare for the last 4 years? Where did this come from, and when did Obama start listening to reason?

        • 4 Years Ago
        Well said. The President HAS been cleaning up after blustering Bush and still has a huge pile of stench to go (Patriot Act??) But at least he's making progress and will be re-elected because of that.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Obama's been too busy cleaning up after his predecessor (Iraq, Afghanistan, Economy). Now that those 3 areas are looking better and require less attention, the administration can focus more on long term goals.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What's with you people? Don't you know that ethanol has more cons than pros?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Would that include the military? What are we going to do with all the current gas/ diesel vehicle fleet that is going to be used by the Federal government? It sounds too ambitious.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The US military is researching/producing bio-diesel form many different technologies. The more they can produce for themselves the better. Many test are being performed in jet fuel with many successes. All you nay sayers sound so pathetic. You argue about what can't be done while the rest of the world does it any way and leaves us farther behind.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The headline here is terribly misleading. They won't actually be replacing the entire vehicle fleet.

        From the article:
        "By 2015, the federal government will only buy alt-fuel vehicles."

        That's a lot different than saying the entire fleet will be alt-fuel.
      • 4 Years Ago
      1/3 less oil import by 2025 makes a ridiculous reduction of about 20% oil usage. No, wait - this will be even less, as they plan to "drill more" and raise the ethanol usage.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Stupidity in reprise is still stupidity...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree Spec,

      I thought it was a very good speech...but I'm sure the right will still be critical....just because.

      Natural gas WILL be a big part. It is destined to happen.....we will see it burned directly in fleet vehicles as that is where it works best---no infrastructure required....and we will see lot's of combined cycle natural gas electric plants running at close to 60% cycle efficiency making low CO2 electricity for us to use in EV's.

      If you are into energy conversion this is a great time to be alive.

      By the way GE just got a HUGE order for 10GW of gas turbines from TEPCO. Not sure if they will combined cycle though.
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