"All of the above" energy? The planet is not a multiple choice test
President Obama can't say he's serious about climate change when he's boosting fossil fuel production.
In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama said this:
"The "all the above" energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working..."
What he didn't say was that the U.S. Coast Guard was also busy working yesterday -- as photographed above -- cleaning up an oil spill in the Delaware River south of Philadelphia, the third oil-related mishap in the region in just an eight-day period.
President Obama said that said that natural gas can power the growth of the economy..."[i]f extracted safely."
What he didn't say is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- part of his administration last time I checked -- can't explain why it recently dropped the ball on three seemingly clear-cut cases of water pollution from fracking (one right here in Pennsylvania), or why the EPA has been strangely passive as evidence grows that natural gas extraction is behind toxic air pollution, dumping of billions of gallons of wastewater laced with radiation...even earthquakes.
President Obama said "my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities."
What he didn''t say was that the the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration -- also, yes, a part of the administration that he heads -- decided to delay for a year any decision on new safety rules for the ridiculously outdated DOT-111 tankers cars that are being used to transport millions of barrels of highly flammable crude oil across the United States, including through the heart of Philadelphia. That decision came just days after an explosion of DOT-111 cars killed 47 people in Quebec.
President Obama said "and taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet."
What he didn't say is that less than four years after the vitally important and fragile Gulf of Mexico was scarred for a generation by the worst oil spill in American history, BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, his administation has approved more offshore oil drilling than before -- with little or no evidence that either Big Oil or the agencies that allegedly regulate it have learned from their mistakes.
President Obama said "the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact" -- and the audience burst into applause.
What he didn't say was...ANYTHING about the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that will speed the greenhouse-gas disaster that is extraction of dirty Canadian tar sands oil -- and prove to the world that America's commitment to taking the global warming problem seriously is little more than a joke.
OK, OK, the fact that a politician wants to have it both ways isn't exactly earth-shattering news. But for a president to brag that his policy is "all of the above" -- and that he's thus unwilling to make politically difficult choices -- is an insult to the intelligence of everyone who was watching. Obama was trying to say "message: I care" about climate change at the same time he was touting his policies that have greatly expanded domestic production of fossil fuels, the leading cause of climate change. That's the height of hypocrisy. His policies actually are earth-shattering -- in the literal sense of the word.
The path on energy actually isn't rocket science. As long as fossil fuels are still necessary, the government can take real, meaningful steps to make sure that oil trains don't blow up in our cities, that bad fracking practices don't pollute our well water, and that we don't actively promote the use of the dirtiest fuels in our energy toolbox. And while the president did boast about expanding use of solar power -- and that's good -- America still lags behind other industrial nations in our production of renewable energy, and there is much, much more that can be done.
Energy policy isn't a multiple choice test. If anything, it's more like a true/false exam. And our policies -- and our president -- need to be a lot truer than they were last night.