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Obama's Sensible Green Energy Policy

Alex Blow |
September 19, 2012 | 8:31 p.m. PDT


"Obama’s Sensible Green Energy Policy" is part of a new series, "Political Perspectives."

(Dawn Megli / Creative Commons)
(Dawn Megli / Creative Commons)

As the state of the economy dominates election discussions, one issue has lost much coverage, even as it grows in import every day.

Once cardboard signs are thrown in the recycling bin and campaign dust settles, renewable energy and global climate change will emerge as the next big issues for every nation to tackle. Unfortunately for the United States, our politically divided government has yet to agree on the significance of these two issues, let alone on the possible approaches to addressing them.

Recently, the Democratic Party, at the guidance of President Obama, has made progress with regard to renewable energy. The president has taken a realistic view of dire environmental forecasts and has refused to abandon the search for solutions, even in the face of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. This commitment to renewable energy reflects not on his political intelligence, but on his capacity for long-term policymaking.

Both parties can agree on the importance of energy independence. The United States’ reliance on foreign oil has plunged it into a state of vulnerability. A common criticism of President Obama is that he has failed to develop oil production domestically. However, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “during President Obama’s administration, crude oil production has risen to levels not seen since May 2002.” The President is fully aware that increasing domestic oil production is a necessary path to take, but is wise enough to understand that it is not sufficient in the long run.

In an address to a joint session of congress in 2009 the President argued that in order “to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.” Our nation can no longer afford to allow renewable energy and the dangers of global climate change to be painted as a liberal hoax. Climate change is neither a political scare tactic, nor some radical form of apocalyptic hysteria. It is science, and to reject it as such is to reject our country’s progress.

Using our resources to rise to the forefront of renewable energy will not only keep America on top in the long run, but will create new opportunities for prosperity now. The successes of the European Union in the renewable energy industry illustrates this point. Let’s look at one type of renewable energy in particular: wind. Recent estimates show that “total wind power capacity in the U.S. was equal to about 3.3% of the country's electricity demand, according to the Department of Energy report. That compares with 29% in Denmark, 19% in Spain and 11% in Germany.” The fact is that we are falling behind in an area that we have dominated for nearly a century: industrial innovation. This lag is a result of our nation’s division over the issue of global climate change.

There are important debates to have when discussing global climate change and how best to combat it, but debating whether or not it is occurring is no longer acceptable. Whether or not climate change is anthropogenic is a discussion that is not limited to the political realm. Climatologists, using things called facts, settled that debate a while ago. An article published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reported, “97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC [anthropogenic climate change] outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Whether or not climate change exists and is human caused was never a political debate, it was a scientific one. That debate has ended for some politicians, but not for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In his book, titled "No Apology," Romney states that “even the apparent unity among scientists is not a sure indicator of scientific fact." This method of reasoning is dangerous. The truth is that global climate change is a threat to national security, agricultural production, the environment and the general population. Scientists are not worried if the consequences of global climate change are going to go from bad to worse; they are worried, rather, that the consequences will go from worse to catastrophic.

The President has shown, not only in name but in his in his policy decisions, a significant commitment to developing renewable energy. Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained multiple tax credits and grants for renewable energy projects, which are aimed at boosting the country’s competitive advantage in the growing renewable energy market. Such credits include the Residential Energy Property Credit, which “increases the energy tax credit for homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their existing homes”. One credit in particular, The Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit, “allows [the credit], including the tax credit for purchasing hybrid vehicles, to be applied against the Alternative Minimum Tax”. This adjustment is particularly significant because it gives environmentally conscious individuals a double incentive: a more fuel efficient car and lower tax rates. Overall, the stimulus package included six new renewable energy incentives for individuals and seven for small businesses.

Although renewable energy production is not the first thing on the minds of the average American struggling to make it through these tough economic times, it must be on the minds of our elected officials. The challenges related to energy dependence and global climate change are already at our doorstep. President Obama has consistently shown his support for tackling these tough issues, while his opponent refuses to acknowledge them altogether. If there is one thing both candidates can agree on, it is that American cannot fall behind. For nearly a century we have led the world in industrial innovation. Anything less than that is unacceptable, given our intellectual and capital resources. We need to elect a strong leader with a proven commitment to energy progress, especially if one of our parties continually refuses to acknowledge the issue even exists.


Editor's Note: Read an opposing article explaining why President Obama's energy policy is misguided here.



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