“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

President Obama on Energy

"Our enemies are fully aware that they can use oil as a weapon against America. And if we don't take this threat as seriously as the bombs they build or the guns they buy, we will be fighting the War on Terror with one hand tied behind our back."

What is the Republican argument for asking the American people to vote for them based on their energy programs enacted when they had the power to do so?

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Governor's Ethanol Coalition
Washington, DC
Feb. 28, 2006

In this year's State of the Union address, President Bush told us that it was time to get serious about America's addiction to foreign oil. The next day, we found out that his idea didn't sit too well with the Saudi Royal Family. A few hours later, Energy Secretary Bodman backtracked and assured the world that even though the President said he planned to reduce the amount of oil we import from the Middle East, he actually didn't mean that literally.

If there's a single example out there that encapsulates the ability of unstable, undemocratic governments to wield undue influence over America's national security just because of our dependence on oil, this is it.

Now, I could stand up here and give you all plenty of reasons why it's a good idea for this country to move away from an oil-based economy. I could cite studies from scientists and experts and even our own State Department detailing the dangers of global warming - how it can destroy our coastal areas and generate more deadly storms. I could talk forever about the economic consequences of dependence - how it's decimating our auto industry and costing us jobs and emptying our wallets at the pump. And I could talk about the millions of new jobs and entire new industries we could create by transitioning to an alternative-fuel economy.

But all we really need to know about the danger of our oil addiction comes directly from the mouths of our enemies:

"[Oil] is the umbilical cord and lifeline of the crusader community." These are the words of Al Qaeda.

"Focus your operations on oil, especially in Iraq and the Gulf area, since this will cause them to die off [on their own]." These are the words Osama bin Laden.

More than anything else, these comments represent a realization of American weakness shared by the rest of the world. It's a realization that for all of our military might and economic dominance, the Achilles heel of the most powerful country on Earth is the oil we cannot live without.

Oil single-handedly fuels 96% of our transportation needs, and it's also critical to the manufacture of millions of goods and products in this country. As we saw during Hurricane Katrina, this kind of dependency means that the loss of even a small amount of oil and refining capacity for just a few days can cause economic panic and soaring prices. A serious embargo or permanent loss could cause untold disaster.

It would be nice if we could produce our way out of this problem, but it's just not possible. We only have 3% of the world's oil reserves. We could start drilling in ANWR today, and at its peak, which would be more than a decade from now, it would give us enough oil to take care of our transportation needs for about a month.

As a result, every single hour we spend $18 million on foreign oil. It doesn't matter if these countries are budding democracies, despotic regimes, or havens for the madrassas that plant the seeds of terror in young minds - they get our money because we need their oil.

One need only glance at headlines around the world to understand how dangerous this addictive arrangement truly is.

In Iran, Islamic fundamentalists are forging ahead with their nuclear program, knowing full well that the world's response to their actions will be influenced by our need for their oil. In fact, reports of a $100 billion oil deal between Iran and China were soon followed by China's refusal to press for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear intentions.

In Nigeria, militant rebels have been attacking the country's oil pipelines in recent weeks, sending prices soaring and calling into question the political stability of a country that represents America's fifth-largest source of oil imports.

In Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda has been attempting attacks on that country's poorly defended oil refineries for years. On Friday, they almost succeeded as a truck full of explosives was detonated by the shots of security guards just before it entered the refinery. Even this minor damage caused oil prices to jump $2 in a single day. But a former CIA agent tells us that if terrorists ever succeeded in destroying an entire oil complex, it could take enough oil off the market to cause economic catastrophe in the United States.

Our enemies are fully aware that they can use oil as a weapon against America. And if we don't take this threat as seriously as the bombs they build or the guns they buy, we will be fighting the War on Terror with one hand tied behind our back.

Now, the good news about the President's decision to finally focus on energy independence after five years is that it helps build bipartisan consensus that our reliance on foreign oil is a problem and shows that he understands the potential of renewable fuels to make a difference.

The bad news is that the President's energy policy treats our dependence on oil as more of a nuisance than a serious threat.

Just one day after he told us in the State of the Union that renewable fuels were the key to an energy independent future, we learned that the President's budget cuts would force layoffs at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Last week, this made for a rather awkward situation when the President wanted to use the lab for a photo-op - so awkward that the White House actually re-hired the laid-off researchers just to avoid the embarrassment.

This is only one example, but it tells the story of a larger weakness in the President's energy policy: it's simply not commensurate to the challenge.

There's a reason that some have compared the quest for energy independence to the Manhattan Project or the Apollo moon landing. Like those historic efforts, moving away from an oil economy is a major challenge that will require a sustained national commitment.

During World War II, we had an entire country working around the clock to produce enough planes and tanks to beat the Axis powers. In the middle of the Cold War, we built a national highway system so we had a quick way to transport military equipment across the country. When we wanted to beat the Russians into space, we poured millions into a national education initiative that graduated thousands of new scientists and engineers.

If we hope to strengthen our security and control our own foreign policy, we can offer no less of a commitment to energy independence.

But so far, President Bush seems like he is offering less - much less.

His funding for renewable fuels is at the same level it was the day he took office.

He refuses to call for even a modest increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

His latest budget funds less then half of the energy bill he himself signed into law - leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in under-funded energy proposals.

And while he cannot seem to find the funding for any of these energy proposals, he has no problem allowing the oil companies to stiff taxpayers $7 billion in royalties that they owe us for drilling on public lands. These are the same oil companies that are currently enjoying the highest profits on record.

Again, this is just not a serious commitment to energy independence. The solutions are too timid - the reforms too small. America's dependence on oil is a major threat to our national security, and the American people deserve a bold commitment that has the full force of their government behind it.

This isn't to lay the blame for our energy problems entirely at the feet of our President. This is an issue that politicians from both parties clamor about when gas prices are the headline of the month, only to fall back into a trance of inaction once things calm down. And so we all need to get serious here. Automakers need to get serious about shifting their technology to greater fuel-efficiency, consumers need to get serious about buying hybrid cars, and Washington needs to get serious about working together to find a real solution to our energy crisis.

Such a solution is not only possible, it's already being implemented in other places around the world. Countries like Japan are creating jobs and slowing oil consumption by churning out and buying millions of fuel-efficient cars. Brazil, a nation that once relied on foreign countries to import 80% of its crude oil, will now be entirely self-sufficient in a few years thanks to its investment in biofuels.

So why can't we do this? Why can't we make energy security one of the great American projects of the 21st century?

The answer is, we can. The President's energy proposal would reduce our oil imports by 4.5 million barrels per day by 2025. Not only can we do better than that, we must do better than that if we hope to make a real dent in our oil dependency. With technology we have on the shelves right now and fuels we can grow right here in America, by 2025 we can reduce our oil imports by over 7.5. million barrels per day - an amount greater than all the oil we are expected to import from the entire Middle East.

We can do this by focusing on two things: the cars we drive and the fuels we use.

First, the cars. For years, we've hesitated to raise fuel economy standards as a nation in part because of a very legitimate concern - the impact it would have on Detroit. The auto industry is right when they argue that transitioning to more hybrid and fuel-efficient cars would require massive investment at a time when they're struggling under the weight of rising health care costs, sagging profits, and stiff competition.

But it's precisely because of that competition that they don't have a choice. China now has a higher fuel economy standard than we do, and Japan's Toyota is doubling production of the popular Prius to sell 100,000 in the U.S. this year.

There is now no doubt that fuel-efficient cars represent the future of the auto industry. If American car companies hope to be a part of that future - if they hope to survive - they must start building more of these cars.

But that's not to say we should leave the industry to face these costs on its own. Yes, we should raise fuel economy standards by 3% a year over the next fifteen years, starting in 2008. With the technology they already have, this should be an achievable goal for automakers. But we can help them get there.

Right now, one of the biggest costs facing auto manufacturers isn't the cars they make, it's the health care they provide. Health care costs make up $1,500 of the price of every GM car that's made - more than the cost of steel. Retiree health care alone cost the Big 3 automakers nearly $6.7 billion just last year.

So here's the deal we can make with the auto companies. It's a piece of legislation I introduced called "Health Care for Hybrids," and it would allow the federal government to pick up part of the tab for the auto companies' retiree health care costs. In exchange, the auto companies would then use some of that savings to build and invest in more fuel-efficient cars. It's a win-win proposal for the industry - their retirees will be taken care of, they'll save money on health care, and they'll be free to invest in the kind of fuel-efficient cars that are the key to their competitive future.

Now, building cars that use less oil is only one side of the equation. The other involves replacing the oil we use with home-grown biofuels. The Governors in this room have long known about this potential, and all of you have been leading the way on ethanol in your own states.

This coalition also knows that corn-based ethanol is only the beginning. If we truly want to harness the power of these fuels and the promise of this market, we can and must generate more cellulosic ethanol from agricultural products like corn stocks, switch grass and other crops our farmers grow.

Already, there are hundreds of fueling stations that use a blend of ethanol and gasoline known as E85, and there are millions of cars on the road with the flexible-fuel tanks necessary to use this fuel - including my own.

But the challenge we face with these biofuels is getting them out of the labs, out of the farms, and onto the wider commercial market. Every scientific study in the world could sing the praises of biofuels, but you might still be hard-pressed to find an investor willing to take the risk on a cellulosic ethanol plant or a brand-name petroleum company willing to build an E85 fueling station.

The federal government can help in two ways here. First, we can reduce the risk of investing. We already do this in a number of ways by funding projects critical to our national security. Energy independence should be no different. By developing an Energy Technology Program at the Defense Department, we can provide loan guarantees and venture capital to those with the best plans to develop and sell biofuels on a commercial market. The Defense Department will also hold a competition where private corporations get funding to see who can build the best new alternative-fuel plant. The Department can then use these new technologies to improve the energy security of our own military.

Once we take the risk out of investing, the second thing the government can do is to let the private sector know that there will always be a market for renewable fuels. We can do this in a few ways.

  • First, we should ramp up the renewable fuel standard and create an alternative diesel standard in this country so that by 2025, 65 billion gallons of alternative fuels per year will be blended into the petroleum supply.

  • Second, Washington should lead the way on energy independency by making sure that every single automobile the government purchases is a flexible-fuel vehicle - starting today. When it becomes possible in the coming years, we should make sure that every government car is a plug-in hybrid as well.

  • Third, I'm supporting legislation that would make sure every single new car in America is a flexible-fuel vehicle within a decade. Currently it costs manufacturers just $100 to add these tanks to each car. But we can do them one better. If they install flexible-fuel tanks in their cars before the decade's up, the government should provide them a $100 tax credit to do it - so there's no excuse for delay.

  • Fourth, there are already millions of people driving flexible-fuel vehicles who don't know it. The auto companies shouldn't get CAF'E credit for making these cars if they don't let buyers know about them, so I'd like to ask the industry to follow GM's lead and put a yellow gas cap on all flexible fuel vehicles starting today. Also, they should send a letter to those people who already have flexible-fuel vehicles so they can start filling up their tank at the closest E85 station.

  • Finally, since there are only around 500 fueling stations that pump E85 in the country, we recently passed legislation that would provide tax credits of up to $30,000 for those who want to install E85 pumps at their station. But we should do even more - we should make sure that in the coming years, E85 stations are as easy to find as your gas station is now.

Make no mistake - none of these reforms will come easy, and they won't happen overnight. But we can't continue to settle for piecemeal, bite-sized solutions to our energy crisis. We need a national commitment to energy security, and to emphasize that commitment, we should install a Director of Energy Security to oversee all of our efforts. Like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the National Intelligence Director, this person would be an advisor to the National Security Council and have the full authority to coordinate America's energy policy across all levels of government. He or she would approve all major budget decisions and provide a full report to Congress and the country every year detailing the progress we're making toward our 2025 goal.

In the days and months after September 11th, Americans were waiting to be called to something bigger than themselves. Just like their parents and grandparents of the Greatest Generation, they were willing to serve and defend their country - not only on the fields of war, but on the homefront too.

This is our chance to step up and serve. The war against international terrorism has pitted us against a new kind of enemy that wages terror in new and unconventional ways. At home, fighting that enemy won't require us to build the massive war machine that Franklin Roosevelt called for so many years ago, but it will require us to harness our own renewable forms of energy so that oil can never be used as a weapon against America. From farmers and scientists to entrepreneurs and governors, everyone has a role to play in this effort. In fact, this afternoon I'm sitting down with business and military leaders to discuss this very topic.

Now is the time for serious leadership to get us started down the path of energy independence. Now is the time for this call to arms. I hope some of the ideas I've laid out today can serve as a basis for this call, but I also hope that members of both parties and all levels of government can come together in the near future to launch this serious quest for energy independence. Thank you.


  1. January 04, 2008
    Goodbyle Iowa, Hello Obama
    Richard Baehr

    "Goodbye Iowa for 4 more years. But the Hawkeye State may have crowned the new President this time: Barack Obama. I believe he will be very hard to stop now, both for the nomination and the general election if he is nominated, given how shattered the GOP is (that race is wide open, with a slight edge to John McCain).

    This is, in my opinion, very bad news for American national security and for Israel. Our enemies will not disappear because a new President wants to concentrate on stem cell research or global warming or universal health care. Obama is a candidate from the pacifist left side of the Democratic Party with little knowledge of the Middle East (he has spent most of his time in the Senate running for President) and in my opinion, his positions are wrong or naive.

    Obama believes we can talk to Iran, and Hamas, and maybe even Al Qaeda, and work with them, if we are more open to their concerns and less aggressive and bullying. And of course we must get out of Iraq quickly (leaving the place for Iran and Al Qaeda to divvy up).

    No, there are real bad guys in that part of the world, and they want to kill us, dominate us, obliterate Israel and eventually destroy our western civilization. There is a global jihad, but thinking about it makes many people uncomfortable.

    Obama is running as the political messiah, rising above pettiness, and the old politics But I fear the emperor has no clothes. Given the turnout in the Democratic race, almost double the GOP turnout, the passion and excitement appears to be all on one side.

    Mike Huckabee has been run down by the GOP establishment and many pundits. I have not joined in that slaughter effort to date. While I think he would be a terrible GOP candidate in a general election, he is tapping into something real as well -- a general uneasiness among many American about their economic future. Obama and Edwards, with his Naderite hateful rhetoric about corporations, also addressed this.

    But none of them have real answers to complex problems of energy supply and pricing, trade imbalances, the weak dollar, health care spending and program costs, the rise of China, the power of sovereign wealth funds, and how to spur the economy (taxing the rich more heavily, or shifting the tax burden from the middle class to wealthier Americans will not create economic growth or cut budget or trade deficits."

    Richard Baehr is political director of American Thinker.

  2. I didn't see the words 'nuclear energy' in there, and I'm hoping I missed them.

  3. Nope, I didn't miss them, they aren't in there. But the Prius! will save us.

    Folks, things look grim.

  4. Right you are Bob. What did President Bush and a Republican Congress deliver? Remember this?

    Bush to push for new nuclear power plants, more refineries

    Cox News Service
    Wednesday, April 27, 2005

    WASHINGTON — President Bush will offer proposals on Wednesday aimed at increasing domestic energy supplies by building refineries on closed military bases and jump-starting the construction of nuclear power plants, senior administration officials said late Tuesday.

    The proposals, to be detailed in a speech at a Small Business Administration conference in Washington, also will include more federal authority over the permitting of liquefied national gas terminals, additional tax credits for fuel-efficient vehicles and what aides called "expanded international cooperation" to promote increased use of nuclear and coal-fueled power around the world.

    The Bush proposals come as the nation's economy continues to be threatened by high gas prices. Nothing in the new proposals would have any impact on current prices, White House aides said. Instead, they are targeted at "the root problem of our energy situation," a senior administration official said.

    An overview of the proposals was offered during a conference call with Bush aides that the White House would allow to be identified only as senior administration officials.

    The package is consistent with Bush's long-held view that government has gotten in the way of the development of infrastructure needed for the United States to reduce its increasing dependence on foreign energy supplies.

    Bush wants to get more nuclear power plants on line – none have opened in the U.S. since the early 1990s - by reducing the risk and uncertainty in the licensing process. Included will be a call for the Department of Energy to provide risk insurance to mitigate the additional cost of unforeseen delays, an aide said.

  5. Wake me if Obama ever says anything with any substance to it.

    And right you are deuce, Bush has been terrible. And Congress as well. He at least mumbled the words, to no effect. Meanwhile, it looks like our power plant here in Idaho will probably go to a vote of the people.... And then the courts.

  6. Border enforcement, immigration, energy, government spending, trade deficits, budget deficits, you name it. The young people and many American voters are going to look at the Republicans and ask, "What did you do when you had the chance?"

  7. That is the appeal of Ron Paul and Huckabee. The Bush enablers are frothing at the mouth about Huck and Obama, but did they rail at Bush for never picking up the veto pen once?

    Hewitt was selling his ridiculous book on a permanent Republican majority. Now he is saying it isn't fair that Huck and McCain are peeing on Romney's parade. It looks like the Republican majority is going to be a little on the wain side of hunger.

    We may have heard the fatal crumbling of the foundation of the Republican College of Cardinals.

  8. You're right, deuce, and then we'll elect Obama and border enforcement, immigration, energy, government spending, trade deficits, budget deficits -- all, will get worse. They'll raise taxes--and spend it. And the economy is probably due for a big correction anyway. And--he's going to run into a buzz saw of some kind in foreign affairs, if he's the unlucky guy to be President, as sure as I'm sitting here. Hopefully Rufus is right and the higher oil prices will lead to some solution from an innovative market. If Obama were elected, and made a success of it, I'd be one of the most surprised, and happy guys on the planet.

    Hannity was saying for a certainty he knows the Clintons have some bad stuff on Obama, and will use it, but I've been keeping my ears to the ground, and haven't heard anything more or it, or heard anyone else mention it. If its there Hillary will use it now the pressure is on. I used to think they might run as pres and v pres together, which would be a good ticket for them I'd think, but they will end up hating each others guts I bet.

  9. Time to turn to prayer, like that old pastor Ralph Waldo Emerson mentioned. The drought had been going on for years, you know, and everybody had been praying to no good effect, so finally, he comes out of retirement, and says, 'things are getting serious, I'll pray!'

  10. Let's do something more constructive than prayer. Let's start building.

    The US has huge expanse of desert where industrial solar plants can be built, TODAY. The US has huge expanse of costal shoreline where industrial offshore wind farms can be built, TODAY. This can be and should be built, TODAY.

  11. W and Bro Jeb brought us a ban on drilling in the Gulf, preserving this precious resource for Castro and the Chicoms.

  12. W brought us total lack of conservative leadership, leading to the dissolution of the GOP.

    The dissolution of the GOP will lead to the dissolution of the country as we know it, if the Dems gain monolithic power, and Implement non-citizen, no voter ID as the law of the land.

    Pray for a cross-border Nuke, soon!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Israel to Begin Building Solar Power Facility in Negev

    27 Tevet 5768,
    05 January 08 02:14
    by Ezra HaLevi

    The station will be built on a 2,250 acre area in the Negev desert. The preparation for the station is expected to take a year and the actual construction another two years, at which point it will become operational.

    The power station will be constructed by Solel Solar System Ltd., an alternative energy firm that built and maintains the world’s largest solar power facility in California’s Mojave Desert.

    The facility relies on hundreds of thousands of curved mirrors – each with a diameter of almost 20 feet and with a 4 inch diameter specially-insulated oil-filled tube. Each mirror heats the oil to nearly 750 degrees, which turns water into steam. The steam drives a turbine, which produces electricity. Since the last stages of the process are similar to those in conventional power plants, the facility can also be operated on gas when sunlight is unavailable, such as during the night or when the panels are undergoing maintenance.

    "Israel is prominent on the world stage for developing solar technology, but until now, we haven't really harnessed that knowledge for our own needs," said Prof. David Faiman, director of the Solar Energy Center when the project was announced several years ago.

    The Negev station will initially supply 100 megawatts of electricity – enough to supply power for 200,000 people - and will eventually have an annual output of 500 megawatts – enough to meet the needs of 1,000,000 Israelis.

  15. How many Joules per 1,000,000 Joos?
    That is the question!

  16. One joule is the work done, or energy expended, by a force of one newton moving an object one meter along the direction of the force.

    This quantity is also denoted as a
    Newton-meter with the symbol N·m. Note that torque also has the same units as work, but the quantities are not identical.

  17. Jules Verne (February 8, 1828–March 24, 1905)was a French and Breton author who pioneered the science-fiction genre. He is best known for novels such as Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before air travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He is the third most translated author in the world, according to Index Translationum. Some of his books have been made into films. Verne, along with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells, is often popularly referred to as the "Father of Science Fiction".

  18. Of non-Evangelicals, only SIXTEEN PERCENT voted for the Huckster!
    Obama checkmates most of the Clinton's negative campaigning options, simply because he is a "person of color."

    Similarly, in running against Huckabee, the MSM will have little trouble finding something at least as monumental and fatal as "maccaca" in Huck's past.

    If Huck were to counter-attack and point out that Obama's minister is patently racist and anti-Semitic, not only would this true charge fall on deaf ears, but Huckabee would garner additional criticism!

  19. “Well, I don't believe that climate change is just an issue that's convenient to bring up during a campaign. I believe it's one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation. That's why I've fought successfully in the Senate to increase our investment in renewable fuels. That's why I reached across the aisle to come up with a plan to raise our fuel standards… And I didn't just give a speech about it in front of some environmental audience in California. I went to Detroit, I stood in front of a group of automakers, and I told them that when I am president, there will be no more excuses — we will help them retool their factories, but they will have to make cars that use less oil.” — Barack Obama, Speech in Des Moines, IA, October 14, 2007

  20. "doug said...
    One joule is the work done, or energy expended, by a force of one newton moving an object one meter along the direction of the force.

    This quantity is also denoted as a
    Newton-meter with the symbol N·m. Note that torque also has the same units as work, but the quantities are not identical.

    Sat Jan 05, 07:23:00 AM EST"

    duly noted- thanks.

  21. the oil issue will solve it's self very soon

    as dr states it's a fight to the dual death of the israelis & the black rockers

    but the good news? there wiill be no middle east oil to worry about after it's nuked

    then we can all work to build a world without islam and oil

    jews have survived MANY a genocide, this one aint unique....

    predictions that israel will lose about 800,000 jews in the next round, the arabs? about 200 million

    in the end look to a nuked israel to lead the world in radioactive cleanup!

    look to the new world without the arabs & oil!

    how expensive will oil and fuel be?

    i'd guess about 6 dollars a gallon after the dust settles, then, moving down to 5 after the world adjusts...

    call it a dream...

    I'd call it PLAUSIBLE

  22. As for me, I'm looking to buy a couple teams of good plow horses and one of those German plows I read about that last forever.

  23. You hire hands to help you with the work bob?