Jun 28

“We’re on a mission from God.”

At least Jake and Elwood had a fallback, something they could lean on when in need of a little moral support.    When it comes to “climate change”, what and where exactly is President Obama’s support?

Addressing climate change just doesn’t rank very high with voters.   Amongst the top ten “most important issues” listed in a recent Rasmussen poll, climate change was not to be found.  And the trend on what people believe is the root cause of global warming has the planets beating the people pretty handily.

But with the remarkable live feed from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico still showing the sickening sight of oil belching into the water, one can not help but think of that please-gimme-a-Mulligan phrase from Rahm Emanuel, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Dealing with the oil spill is one thing.   Making the leap from there to push a a costly “cap-and-trade” energy policy faintly associated with climate change is quite another.   It seems that rather than confronting a supposed “inconvenient truth”, Obama is attempting an inconvenient non sequitur.

This shouldn’t be a surprise

During the presidential campaign, Obama’s candid feelings about energy, climate change, and the likely effects of his policies were made abundantly clear in a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The problem is, can you get the American people to say “this is really important” and force their representatives to do the right thing?  That requires mobilizing a citizenry.   That requires them understanding what is at stake.   And climate change is a great example.   You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know, under my plan, of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket, even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I’m capping greenhouse gasses.   Coal power plants, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they’d have to retrofit their operations.  That will cost money.  They will pass that money on to consumers.”

Between Obama’s June 15th prime time speech and other media outlets, attempts at mobilizing the citizenry are well underway. The New York Times describes the plan of attack, no doubt crafted to not waste a crisis:

“[Democrats] now believe they know how to use the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to secure the necessary Republican votes….    On the financial reform bill, Senate Democrats harnessed public outrage at big business to force Republicans to the table…..    Democrats have been attempting to tie the need for sweeping energy and climate legislation to the ongoing BP PLC oil leak since it began, but the new plan appears to go a step further. By including drilling safety reform in the bill, they hope to make the case that a vote against the package is a vote for BP and “Big Oil.”

Amongst the tragic dimensions of the BP spill is the unfortunate statistic that of the tens of thousands of drilling operations that have been undertaken in the Gulf of Mexico, this accident represents only the second underwater leak.  It bears repeating that BP is struggling with robots and the extreme conditions of metal-working nearly a mile below sea level almost entirely because regulations and policies have forced them to.   Indeed, there seems to be a direct correlation between the difficulty of the drilling location and our willingness to let energy companies operate there.   Did BP make mistakes?  Without question.   Is the market punishing BP and its shareholders?   $100 billion dollars of lost market capitalization so far would seem to say that it is, and the punishment continues daily.   Granted, this means little to a shrimp fisherman whose business is being wiped out.  But BP has also displayed little public reticence to making such stakeholders whole.

You can’t get there from here

But the disconnect to climate change is the following:  Existing regulations on drilling operations did not prevent the spill, nor are they likely to prevent a new one, as Michael Barone describes.   And regardless of how the BP spill is resolved, none of that is going to affect our climate.   Indeed, the very catch-all term itself, “climate change” (which nicely allows for both global warming and cooling) represents the height of liberal arrogance that humans can even make any meaningful difference to a planet’s climate.    With the basic premise of “cap and trade” being to incentivize companies to reduce greenhouse gases, if the science behind greenhouse gases being a “cause” of global warming is now more in doubt than ever, wouldn’t any potential legislation resting on this premise be correspondingly dismissed? Not if the true push behind the legislation was simply to raise money for other federal spending.

At so many opportunities, “oil companies” and “greed” seem to appear in the same sentence.  But if “greed” supposedly makes an oil company manipulate the prices of its product, would not the same greed spur that same company to provide as many products as it could to monetize the world’s desire for more environmentally friendly products?   Why would these greedy companies sit back and watch such a money-making opportunity be captured by someone else?    BP, Exxon Mobile, or any of the large oil companies would have the resources to produce the transformational electric car, or solar panel, or perpetual motion machine, if it were really that easy to do so.    Lastly, there is the inconvenient truth that supposedly “green” forms of energy are just not nearly as efficient and cost effective in delivering the goods as their hydocarbon counterparts, as  Scott Johnston’s recent piece on renewables makes abundantly clear.   If government really wants to play a role in assisting with innovation,  it should stop pretending that Keynesian-style subsidies and redistributions actually work, and promote proven policies that reward human ingenuity and technological investment.

Don’t mistake any of this for a being a defense of BP.    Rather, it is a necessary if painful discussion of the risks associated with the rewards of capitalism, and of human advancement in general.   If anything, people are perhaps being surprised by sheer quantity of gushing oil.   Might that be an indicator of how much additional oil we might discover if we simply had the national willpower to apply all of our technological prowess to look for it?

As the campaigns heat up for the November elections, it is clear that the Obama gang is taking what may be their only shot at delivering the “change” that they sold to the public in 2008.   The public’s not buying it, but like sweeping healthcare reform, they may just get it anyway, even as the Democrats lose Katrina as a big-bullet talking point.   Where Jake and Elwood Blues were on a mission from God, it seems like Obama’s mission is more of the Kamikaze variety.

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