Economics, Energy and the Environment

Obama’s victory speech: Reading the tea leaves on energy policy

The Obamas and Bidens celebrate reelection in Chicago last night. Image Credit: Reuters

The Obamas and Bidens celebrate reelection in Chicago last night. Image Credit: Reuters

While we can’t know what will happen over the next four years, there are a few (very few) clues in President Obama’s victory speech that suggest a continuation of the energy policies we’ve seen in his first term: A continued push for “green” (i.e. low-carbon) forms of energy, and an aversion to oil imports. Here are the two (count ‘em, two!) quotes that pertain to energy policy, followed by my (admittedly subjective) interpretation of what they might portend for energy policy:

1.    But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers. A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow. We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

2.    Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.

As I read it, the juxtaposition in the first quote of the “global leader in technology and discovery and innovation” paired with a sudden (at least suddenly verbalized) interest in climate change suggests a continued press for low-carbon (read wind- and solar power) forms of energy. This has always been the green-energy riff of the last four years, that the US has to lead the world in the green-technology of tomorrow.

The inclusion of “freeing ourselves from foreign oil,” in the second quote suggests those who’ve argued the Keystone XL pipeline (to bring oil down from Canada to the Gulf Coast) would be approved quickly in Obama’s second term might be in for disappointment. I suppose it all depends on how much the president considers Canada to be “foreign.”

Despite Mitt Romney’s effort to make it a central element of his campaign, energy policy debate played a small role in the election. President Obama gave the subject particularly short shrift, barely mentioning climate change or energy policy during the campaign. Will this change significantly in Obama 2.0? Without the need to face re-election, will the effort to impose an energy strangle of the last four years be extended to the shale-gas boom? Will previous pledges to open new lands to oil and gas exploration be clawed back? Will new environmental regulations pound the coal industry? Will we throw good money after bad in another series of Solyndra-style “investments?” Given how little specifics were discussed in the election, only time will tell.

3 thoughts on “Obama’s victory speech: Reading the tea leaves on energy policy

  1. God, the votes aren’t even all counted, and the AEI still wraps itself in stupidity:

    “The inclusion of “freeing ourselves from foreign oil,” in the second quote suggests those who’ve argued the Keystone XL pipeline (to bring oil down from Canada to the Gulf Coast) would be approved quickly in Obama’s second term might be in for disappointment. I suppose it all depends on how much the president considers Canada to be “foreign.””

    FOR THE 100OTH TIME- NONE OF THIS PRODUCTION IS FOR US CONSUMPTION. ALL WE’RE DOING IS GIVING TRANSCANADA A GIFT. KEYSTONE IS MEANINGLESS.

    Natural Gas prices are down 60%, oil is cratering, gasoline exports are soaring, but leave it to these cranks to put out a gravely written article on “energy policy.”

    Dead. Just plain dead.

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