Saturday, March 10, 2012

Obama's weekly address of March 10

Today was the second consecutive weekly address that President Obama has devoted to energy, indicating he's worried about the political effects of high gas prices:

Last week's was called Taking Control of Our Energy Future. Today's is called Investing in a Clean Energy Future.

This being Obama, we get stuff like this:

Ending this cycle of rising gas prices won’t be easy, and it won't happen overnight. But that’s why you sent us to Washington – to solve tough problems like this one. So I'm going to keep doing everything I can to help you save money on gas, both right now and in the future. I hope politicians from both sides of the aisle join me. Let's put aside the bumper-sticker slogans, remember why we're here, and get things done for the American people. [my emphasis]
Of course, the reason Republicans are there in Washington is to comfort the most comfortable, i.e., the one percent. And there is no shortage of corporate Democrats who share that goal, and specifically ones that will back the oil industry's political program.

There are a couple of things that stand out about his message and last week's. One is that Obama is here presenting a coherent progressive message, combining concern about an immediate problem with endorsement of progressive goals on clean energy development and raising taxes on oil corporations. The other is that he's boldly endorsing these notions at a time where he has a Congress that is determined to block his domestic proposals and has no intention of working together on "both sides of the aisle" to raise taxes on oil companies or do anything significant to boost clean energy.

Democrats being Democrats and me being a Democrat, I'm happy to hear speeches like this one. It actually does help the progressive worldview some for the President to be saying things like this:

So we have a choice. Right now, some folks in Washington would rather spend another $4 billion on subsidies to oil companies each year. Well you know what? We’ve been handing out these kinds of taxpayer giveaways for nearly a century. And outside of Congress, does anyone really think that's still a good idea? I want this Congress to stop the giveaways to an oil industry that’s never been more profitable, and invest in a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. We should be investing in the technology that’s building the cars and trucks and jets that will prevent us from dealing with these high gas prices year after year after year.
Man, I wish that guy had been President back in 2010 when there were Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress and BP's humongous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico presented an excellent opportunity for a President interested in pointing out the need for higher taxes of oil companies and the need to develop clean energy to make those points even more dramatically and even get some new legislation on them through Congress!

At least he saved the fantasy nonsense about bipartisanship until the very end, and what I quoted above was the whole of it. Obama knows that in an election he has to draw clear lines with the opposition. And that's good. Even most of Obama's severe critics on the left range of the political spectrum don't want to have some Republican theocrat elected to the Presidency in November. (Bob McElvaine has a good column on the religious factionalism in the GOP: Protestants Marrying Santorum Should Use Contraception Huffington Post 03/08/2012.

Also, he twice made the point that auto companies and auto workers in the United States are building more and more fuel-efficient cars, and bragged about the good new on increasing employment. But he didn't even mention that his rescue of General Motors, which the Republicans bitterly opposed, was an important reason for those pieces of good news. He has been doing that lately in other contexts. But that's always a concern with Obama's progressive messaging; he's not consistent enough with it.

And the ambiguity of his messaging shows clearly in this passage, in which he takes a shot at the drill-baby-drill approach of the Republicans and the oil industry, then in practically the same breath brags about how he's been practicing the drill-baby-drill approach, too!

The recent spike in gas prices has been another painful reminder of why we have to invest in this technology. As usual, politicians have been rolling out their three-point plans for two-dollar gas: drill, drill, and drill some more. Well, my response is, we have been drilling. Under my Administration, oil production in America is at an eight-year high. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs, and opened up millions of acres for drilling.

But you and I both know that with only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices – not when consume 20 percent of the world’s oil. We need an all-of-the-above strategy that relies less on foreign oil and more on American-made energy – solar, wind, natural gas, biofuels, and more.
Obama is not Jerry Brown. Especially not when it comes to environmental issues.

This week also brought the one-year anniversary of the Fukishima nuclear disaster. (Dawn Stover, 3/11 and 9/11: Codes for tragedy Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 03/08/2012; David Biello, Lessons from Fukushima Scientific American Online 03/09/2012) Did our progressive-sounding President mention that in his environmental-friendly address today? Well, no. When he talks about "solar, wind, natural gas, biofuels, and more", the "and more" includes nuclear power. Even a dogmatic conservative brutally devoted to the One Percent like Germany's Angela Merkel is accelerating the phase-out of nuclear power in Germany in favor of boosting wind and solar energy production.

Meanwhile, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, is ready to take an election-year run at cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. (Digby, Getting ready to wake the monster Hullabaloo 03/09/2011) It would be both good policy and good politics for the White House to stifle that ridiculous undertaking. But Obama himself is committed to that "Grand Bargain" goal, something Democrats and supporters of Social Security and Medicare can't afford to forget, even in a Presidential election year.

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