Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources — and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.
So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative — a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research — at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy.
Huzzah! The administration finally (2006) acknowledges that we need to do something about this oil habit. Clean energy here we come!
Of course the State of the Union address is like the worlds fair of spin and political cover. A time to take note of all your achievements however slight and fleeting and spin them up into a whirling tornado of progress. The more out-of-context your point is, the more magical it becomes. And don’t worry, Congress will duly applaud and cheer as if they were auditioning for the role of the laugh track on Save By The Bell.
Two years ago Bush acknowledged your addiction to oil. Last year here echoed his commitment to altenative energy.
“It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply — the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power.”
The 2008 State of the Union address called for more the same, “increase the use of renewable power” and “a new generation of clean energy technology”. It looks like greener pastures are ahead.
Two weeks later the Bush administration released its proposed budget for 2009. This is where the Death and Taxes poster comes in. Words are easier to spin than numbers. Ok numbers are just as easy to spin. But the data doesn’t lie. The President’s budget and the Death and Taxes poster give a more accurate look at our priorities.
Here is an overview of the Department of Energy as imaged in the poster.
So lets examine further.
First of all, Energy Efficiency and Renewables is being cut by 27%. Energy Conservation which provides the most benefit per dollar invested is cut 25%. Solar, which has a potential output of 22-69% of the total US power gets shelved as does Hydrogen. Does anyone remember that much touted photo op of President Bush filling up a Hydrogen car in California? It was his magic bullet to make us all forget about pesky fuel efficiency. Well that experiment didn’t last long. In fact the only alternative energy that the administration is actually pushing (when the spot light isn’t on) is biomass, or more precisely, corn based ethanol. Which is unfortunate since ethanol fuel is a disaster in the making.
Are you on the ethanol bandwagon? Well consider this; If we distilled every corn plant in the US, it would only displace 1/6 of our gasoline consumption. A box of Corn Flakes would then cost hundreds of dollars. To replace all of our gasoline we would need to plant 71% of our farmland with fuel crops. The more ethanol, the less food. Not very viable. It’s also inefficient to produce (costs 7 barrels of oil to make 8 barrels of ethanol), reduces millage per gallon (thanks to the high octane), produces more smog than oil, and would strain water supplies.
Bush keeps pushing it with tax incentives and handouts thanks to the Corn Lobby and the fact that its a useful distraction from other effective methods of reducing gasoline use, like increasing mileage standards.
Ok so if renewable energy isn’t in the budget, then what is?
The largest upswing in funding comes from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). This a large 727 million barrel capacity store of petroleum reserves housed in salt domes along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s almost full too, you can check the capacity here. There is enough oil in there to run the country for a month, should there be a world wide embargo as well as disruption of all domestic oil production facilities.
Fossil Energy R&D is on the rise too, mainly a result of Bush’s “clean coal” initiatives. When large energy companies announce with great fanfare they were are spending billions of dollars funding “alternative energy”, they are not talking about wind and solar. They are talking about synthetic gas, liquidfied natural gas, and clean coal. As if burning coal could be a “clean” process, proponents are hoping to just bury all the toxic emissions in the ground. Coal is responsible for 48% of our power supply and U.S reserves could last 250 years, so when the coal lobby outspends the solar lobby 25 to 1, their voice is heard in the White House.
But you probably thought the Department of Energy was in the energy business.
They are actually in the nuclear weapons business as a majority of the departments funding is used to maintain our nuclear stock pile and turning old nukes into glass. A new MOX Fuel facility is in the works at just under a half billion dollars. This place will make uranium and plutonium cocktails to power nuclear plants around the U.S. With 19% of the power supply, the Nuclear Lobby has some serious clout.
So when the microphones are turned off, and the number crunchers take over, the federal budget becomes the ultimate insight into our national priorities. The next time you hear a politician talk about funding alternative energy and being addicted to oil, check the numbers, because usually their green tinted glasses are paid for by lobbyists.