Daily Archives: August 5, 2008

The Magical Thinking of Barack Obama

Barack Obama delivered another major speech today in Lansing, Michigan on the subject of energy. “For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time”, he announced.

I have no doubt that if he becomes President he will attempt to do just that. To be honest with you, that scares the hell out me. Thinking back on the unforeseen and unintended consequences that always seem to follow massive government actions, that statement should strike fear in the heart of every American.

Ending poverty in our lifetime seemed like a pretty good idea to many when Lynden Johnson first proposed it in the sixties. Fifty years later, we have very little positive and many negatives to show for our efforts. Instead of ending poverty, it has destroyed millions of lives and substantially undermined the most important building block of any society, the family unit. The number of people living in poverty today is about the same as it was when the efforts to eliminate it began. The number of fatherless children raised by single moms, and children born out of wedlock has increased astronomically, however.

An all out attempt on the part of government to end our dependence on oil as a source of energy could have a similar devastating effect on our economy. Obama repeated in his speech a cliché we have heard over and over again for decades. “We are addicted to oil”. Furthermore, Obama says our addiction to oil is the most serious problem we face in America today.

Indeed, we are addicted to oil, in the same way we are addicted to food, air and water. Oil is the lifeblood of our economy. Without it our economy would die. Before we rush headlong into schemes for eliminating oil from our energy supply, we need to first consider the cost and the consequences.

An example of Obama’s magical thinking on the subject is his promise to have a million plug-in hybrid cars on the road within six years while, at the same time, calling for a 15% decrease in our use of electricity within the next decade. This indicates to me that he is not only unwilling to allow us the ability to increase our domestic oil supply, but he is also unwilling to permit a meaningful increase in our electricity supply. Our capacity to generate electricity with the power plants we now have is about maxed out. Major cities throughout the country experience “brown-outs” routinely during the peak air-conditioning season, as it is.

Owning a hybrid car does little good if there is no facility available to plug into. Neither is there much use in having a plug-in car if there is no electricity in the plug. To change over our entire fleet of automobiles from petroleum-based fuel to a combination of gasoline and electricity would require an increase in our electricity output to a degree not even thought about by our utopian planners.

To complicate the problem even more, the environmentalist lobby and their allies in the government also have a ban on new sources of nuclear power similar to the ban on drilling for oil. Nuclear energy is the most promising source for generating the volume of electricity necessary to run the number of “plug-ins” necessary to end our dependency on oil for transportation; that is, if it could be done.

If we are not allowed to build more oil-fired power plants, and we can’t build more nuclear or coal-fired power plants, where are we going to get the electricity to run our transportation system when we stop using oil? There is not even enough wind coming out of Washington to do the job. Obama did mention Boon Pickens and his plan for wind power, however.

I have been an admirer of T. Boon most of my life. Nevertheless, I have a nagging doubt about his plan to blanket Texas with windmills. Boon is no slouch when it comes to making money. The question in my mind is, would he be nearly so enthusiastic about wind power if he was not anticipating millions of dollars in federal subsidies? In his speech, Obama promised $15 billion per year toward building a new energy economy in which he expects wind power to play a major role.

It has been estimated that to supply enough wind power to meet the needs of New York City would require blanketing an area the size of Connecticut with windmills. How much space would it take for enough windmills to supply the whole country? Pickens is starting out with 400,000 acres for his Texas project. That should give us some idea.

In addition to the $15 billion toward a new energy economy, Obama is also promising $7,000 each, in tax credits to consumers purchasing his new plug-in cars and another $4 billion in tax credits and loans to automakers for building them.

He is also calling for 2 billion gallons of affordable biofuels, overlooking the fact that biofuels are only affordable when government heavily subsidizes their production. Even then, the savings we might realize from using subsidized biofuels is offset for the consumer by higher food prices and taxes. I know Obama went to Harvard and all that, but honestly, his energy plan makes me wonder if he slept through all his classes in logic and critical thinking.
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