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So the 2008 Platform was apparently wrong: we can “drill our way” at least part of the way to energy independence. The president also promised a future in which the country develops “a hundred-year supply of natural gas that's right beneath our feet” which will “support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.” He promised that if his policies are followed, the U.S. “can cut our oil imports in half by 2020.”
Did we double our use of renewable energy? Indeed the amount of power produced by wind turbines has increased from 52,000 gigawatt-hours in 2009 to 139,000 gigawatt-hours in the past year. Solar power net generation rose to 2,400 gigawatt-hours in the past year from 900 gigawatt-hours in 2009. To provide some perspective, Americans consumed 4,000,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2010, which means that wind power contributed 3.5 percent and solar power less than one-thousandth of the electricity consumed by Americans.
What about drilling? President Obama correctly claims to have opened millions of acres to drilling for hydrocarbons. But how does that compare with previous administrations? In its first three years, according to the Bureau of Land Management, the Bush administration leased 8.8 million acres for oil exploration and production, compared to 5.3 million for the Obama administration. The Clinton administration leased 11.4 million acres in its first three years.
What about the total number of new wells drilled on federal lands? The first three years of the Bush administration saw 9,276 new wells drilled, whereas under the Obama administration 9,693 wells were. Just as a comparison, during the global oil price run-up during the last three years of the Bush administration 15,095 new wells started producing. After the BP oil rig blowout, President Obama closed drilling on most of the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.
The 2008 goal of generating 25 percent of America’s electricity using renewable sources by 2025 was not mentioned, but the 2012 Platform did note, “President Obama has encouraged innovation to reach his goal of generating 80 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.” How much progress has been made toward creating the 5 million green jobs promised in 2008? In this regard, the 2012 Platform offers the following odd locution: “We’ve supported nearly 225,000 clean energy jobs.” Supported? A green job creation rate of 225,000 every four years suggests that only about 560,000 such jobs will be created by 2018, a shortfall of nearly 90 percent from the 2008 goal.
Still, it is heartening that the President recognizes the importance of natural gas production to the future of U.S. economy and job creation. This suggests that his administration will not endorse ideological environmentalists calls for a moratorium on fracking shale gas. The 2012 Democratic Platform declares, “We are expediting the approval process to build out critical oil and gas lines essential to transporting our energy for consumers.” Really? It is true that the Obama Administration has approved the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline? Despite several analyses that concluded that it was safe enough to build, the administration has, however, delayed until after the November elections its decision about the northern leg which would transport oil sands crude from Canada to U.S. Gulf coast refineries.
With regard to nuclear power, the Obama administration in 2010 proposed tripling federal loan guarantees for building new nuclear power plants from the Bush administration’s $18 billion to $54 billion. In the 2012 Platform nuclear power is mentioned in passing just once and there is an oblique reference to “reducing energy waste.” The Obama administration did keep its promise to “protect” Nevada from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility by basically shutting it down. However, the closing of that facility was not based on “sound science” as stated in the 2008 platform. An April 2011 report [PDF] by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) flatly concluded that the Department of Energy’s “decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository program was made for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons.”
The Democratic Platform is much more welcoming of immigrants than is the Republican, but they both share the view that foreign-born students with advanced degrees should be encouraged to stay here to build innovative businesses and create jobs.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans have much love government space exploration anymore. The 2008 Democratic Platform promised to “invest in a strong and inspirational vision for space exploration.” The 2012 Platform declared, “President Obama has charted a new mission for NASA to lead us to a future that builds on America’s legacy of innovation and exploration.” Since 2009, the NASA budget has been essentially flat while falling in constant dollar terms by about 7 percent by 2012. To its credit, the Obama administration scrapped NASA’s moon shot program and has focused more on privatizing and commercializing manned space travel.
The 2008 Democratic Platform announced, “We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change.” The platform denounced the Bush administration’s efforts “to deny the science of climate change and the need to act.” The Democrats promised, “We will implement a market-based cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic change and we will set interim targets along the way to ensure that we meet our goal.” Not only would cap-and-trade scheme stop man-made global warming, but “dedicating a portion of the revenues generated by an economy-wide cap and trade program” would pay for all those exciting new “investments” in clean energy they planned to make. Alas, this did not happen, since the 2008 promise to impose a cap-and-trade carbon rationing scheme died in the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Back in 2008, it was fashionable to believe that the chief obstacle to a global response to climate change was the obdurate Bush administration. “Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of collective action to tackle this global challenge,” vowed the 2008 Democrats. The 2008 Platform acknowledged that addressing climate change must include “binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia."
At the United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, in 2009, President Obama found that getting those binding agreements was far easier said than done. That conference collapsed when China publicly embarrassed Obama by refusing to give in to his demands that it commit to binding carbon emissions reduction targets. At subsequent U.N. climate conferences, even with Obama administration “leadership,” all that was agreed upon is to have future meetings that might result in a new global climate compact to go into force by 2020.
In the 2012 Platform, the Democrats “pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers.” In addition, they intend to pursue cuts in domestic greenhouse gas emissions “though regulation and market solutions.” As it happens, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are back down to their level in 1992. This is largely not due to Obama administration green energy policies, but because fracking has produced an abundant supply of cheap natural gas.
After analyzing both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms, it’s evident (and depressing) that politicians always believe that science is on the side of any policy they favor.