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"Obama 2012" Energy Programme: Continuity and Realism

On 30 March 2011, President Obama hold a speech on energy policy at the Georgetown University in Washington. The speech gives a glimpse over the priorities of its 2012 campaign in the energy fields, few days after he announced his candidacy to re-election. Below follow some quotes.

A short assessment

The speech is inscribed in the continuity of his previous initiatives (e.g., the Clean Energy Standard), which does not mean less ambition in terms of renewable energies, but is also pretty realistic as of the use of conventional and unconventional energy sources. While coal is curiously not really mentionned (except clean coal), nuclear energy and shale gas are part of the US energy future depicted by Obama. Oil drilling (onshore and offshore) is not either a taboo. The support to renewable energy sources seems to be endorsed, while the apparent consensus hides that much remains to be done, in particular for a competitive and environmentally friendly use of renewables. The concept of American Ingenuity applied to energy sounded like an attractive slogan, but it is unfortunately not developed further. (Full text and Video).

Secured energy supply means international competitiveness

"... the ups and downs in gas prices are usually temporary. When you look at the long-term trends, though, there will be more ups than downs. That's because countries like India and China are growing at a rapid clip. And as two billion more people start consuming more goods, and driving more cars, and using more energy, it's certain that demand will go a lot faster than supply."

Driling for coping with short-term oil imports dependence

"today, I'm setting a new goal: one that is reasinable, achievable, and necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decase from now, we will have cut that by one-third."

"...imported oil will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, we can partner with neighbors like Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, which recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and with whom we can share American technology and know-how."

"But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard. And we boast one critical, renewable resources the rest of the world cannot match: American ingenuity."

"Meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency. This begins by continuing to increase America's oil supply. [...] To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my Administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production - as long as it's safe and responsible."

"Today, we're working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these standards [post Gulf of Mexico oil spill]. Since they were put in place, we've approved 39 new shallow water permits; and we've approved an additional 7 deepwater permits in recent weeks. When it comes to drilling onshore, my Administration approved more than two permits last year for evert new well that the industry started to drill. So any claim that my Administration is responsible for gas prices because we've "shut down" oil production might make for a useful political sound bite - but it doesn't track with reality."

"In fact, we are pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities they already have. Right now, the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where it's not producing a drop - sitting on suppliers of American energy just waiting to be tapped. That's why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentices that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources. We're also exploring and assessing new frontiers for oil and gas development from Alaska to the Mid - and South Atlantic."

Long-term solutions for long-term needs

"We have to find ways to boost our efficiency so that we use less oil. We have to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy with less of the carbon pollution that threatens our climate."

"In terms of new sources of energy, we have a few difference options. The first is natural gas." Shale gas pertains to these "tap large reserves - perhaps a century's worth." "Now, we have to make sure we're doing it safely, without polluting our water supply." [Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, now in charge of conducting initiatives on that process.]

Biofuels - "There's no reason we shouldn't be using renewable fuels throughout America." "Going forward, we should look for ways to reform incentives to make sure they meet today's challenges and save taxpayers money."

Transport sector -"As we replace oil with fuels and natural gas and biofuels, we can also reduce our dependence by making cars and trucks that use less oil in the first place." "70 percent of our petroleum consumption goes to transportation." Electric vehicles: "Soon, America will be home to 40 percent of global manufacturing capacity for these batteries."

Electricity - "wasting less energy" starting at homes and businesses that "consume 40 percent of the energy we use." "... in my State of the Union Address, I called for a new Clean Energy Standard for America: by 2035, 80 percent of our electricity will come from an array of clean energy sources, from renewables like wind and solar to efficient natural gas to clean coal and nuclear power."

Nuclear energy - "America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy." But I'm determined to ensure that it's safe. That's why I've requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that all of our existing nuclear energy facilities are safe. We'ee incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in designing and building the next generation of plants."

Financing renewables - "A Clean Energy Standard will help drive investment. But government funding will be critical too." "As we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we have to make tough choices. We'll have to cut what we don't need to invest in what we do need- Unfortunately, some want to cut these critical investments in clean energy. They want to cut our research and development into new technologies. They're even shortchanging the resources necessary to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. " "At a moment like this, sacrificing these investments would weaken our energy security and make us more dependent on oil, not less."

In his speech, President Obama also referred to the newly released Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future, a review of his policy since he took office.

Picture: (c) Georgetown University.