I am always amazed at the shortsightedness of the environmental extremists with regard to gas , the president called it a bridge, we agree. No one has ever denied the potential benefits of solar or wind derived energy, although wind sure is a serious polluter of space and our environment. If all the money spent trying to slay the golden goose were spent on finding wise and safe ways of using the gift of significant gas reserves, we would be way ahead of where we are. A strong headwind has never stopped movement toward a desired destination or goal, although it has made the course more of a zigzag and delayed optimal arrival time. I doubt the Saudi's and other anti US natural gas foes will stop until they have wasted billions of dollars protecting their current cash-flows. Too bad; There is so much potential good that could be derived from cooperation. JLCpulse
Loren Steffy, Contributor to Forbe's in Energy 1/29/2014
President Obama hit energy issues early in his State of the Union speech, noting that the U.S. oil and natural gas boom has created thousands of jobs and reduced American crude imports to their lowest level in 20 years. Returning to an idea he proposed in 2012, he talked up his “all-the-above” energy strategy. This time, though, the pitch was far more selective. While he made a passing reference to solar power, he said nothing about nuclear power, bio fuels, coal, the Keystone pipeline, liquefied natural gas exports or wind.
It was natural gas’ night, drawing praise from the president for its ability to slow the growth of carbon emissions and its role as a “bridge” to other, cleaner fuels. The almost singular focus on natural gas amounted to an endorsement of hydraulic fracturing, a pragmatic recognition that a booming domestic energy industry is one of the country’s few economic bright spots. It wasn’t what environmentalists, who had already criticized the “all-the-above” strategy, wanted to hear.
But Obama can’t deny the shifting economic reality of the past two years. The dramatic rise in U.S. oil and natural gas production has shifted the balance of petro-politics and given Obama new foreign policy leverage in dealing with countries such as Iran.
When he first rolled out the “all-the-above” plan, Obama said it would lead to energy that’s “cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.” At the time, I said he’d be lucky to get one out of three. Two years later, though, he’s got a hat trick, just not the way he’d expected.
Renewables, while cleaner, remain expensive and, in the case of wind and solar, at least, unreliable. It isn’t all of the above that have delivered on Obama’s promise, it’s one of the above: natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing has spawned a job boom, and it’s made natural gas cheap and abundant. While it’s still a fossil fuel, it burns cleaner than oil or coal. It’s little wonder, then, that “all of the above” increasingly has become a strategy of one.
As for the rest of the above, only solar got the nod. Obama noted that “every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar,” but he didn’t address what percentage of their power needs are met by solar. For all the advances, it remains a supplemental fuel. He then suggested, as he has before, that we divert tax breaks from fossil fuel industries to fund more development of “fuels of the future.”
While that policy makes some sense, it needs to be pegged to commodity prices, otherwise when prices fall we could find ourselves with none of the above.
Many environmental groups remain steadfastly opposed to fracking, rather than recognized it as a viable compromise. Natural gas may be a fossil fuel, but it’s a better option than oil or coal. While its continued use won’t reduce carbon emissions, it can slow the growth of them. As Obama noted, the U.S. has reduced its carbon output more than any other country in the past eight years. The recession and improved energy efficiency may have been the big drivers, but natural gas helped. (The president conveniently neglected to mention carbon output rose last year, as some utilities shifted back to coal.)
The problem that Obama now faces, and that worries environmentalists more than even the Keystone pipeline, is that a president desperate for economic success and job growth is going to put the short-term benefits of fossil fuels ahead of the long-term development of viable renewables. That has been the energy challenge at which American policy repeatedly has failed during the past 40 years. With fossil fuels efficient, economical and abundant, we may once again take so much comfort in the boom that we stop worrying about what happens when it ends.
Last night, all of the above sounded more like one of the above. That may have been a reflection of the speech’s pragmatic tone, but the risk is that one of the above becomes a bridge to nowhere.