Obama calls oil a fuel of the past while visiting the Tarheel State

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | March 8, 2012 | Clean Transportation, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy

A truck manufacturing plant in Mount Holly, N.C was the backdrop yesterday for a speech where President Obama stressed the urgency of embracing alternative energy sources to lessen our dependence on oil.

Going one step further than former President George W. Bush did in his 2006 State of the Union when he admitted the US is “addicted to oil,” President Obama boldly called oil a “fuel of the past” and maintained that a more-diverse approach to energy production is needed: “We’ve got to develop every source of American energy; not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power, nuclear power, biofuels,” said President Obama. “We need to invest in the technology that will help us use less oil in our cars and our trucks, in our buildings, in our factories. That’s the only solution to the challenge, because as we start using less, that lowers the demand, prices come down.”

I couldn’t agree more with the president that oil is a “legacy fuel” – one that carried us into the 20th century but hardly the fuel that can competitively power us through the 21st century.  Calls for ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ ignore the fact that (1) America does not have the lion’s share of the world’s oil reserves and that, even if we did, (2) many industries already grasp the fact that the technologies of tomorrow will not be shackled to an oil-only transportation infrastructure.  Electric vehicles (EVs) are already penetrating markets throughout the United States with the help of task forces, such as these in North Carolina and South Carolina, helping to set policy and electric charging stations providing a fuel. Ending tax-payer backed subsidies for extremely profitable oil companies would be a good first step in moving beyond an oil-based transportation network, yet Big Oil’s friends in Congress have not been eager to follow that presidential request.

I will, however, ardently disagree with the president on the need for an ‘all of the above’ approach to energy. He specifically cites nuclear power as an energy source to pursue – a strange disconnect when we are just days away from commemorating the one year anniversary of the Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster.  It is essential that leaders in business, industry and policy move this country toward a diverse and sustainable energy future — but not one that relies on high-risk energy choices such as coal, nuclear and oil that have critically disrupted economies, ecosystems and communities. When was the last time you heard about a ‘tragic wind spill’ from a broken wind turbine or a ‘catastrophic solar meltdown’ from a solar farm? “All of the above” is not the ticket to a cleaner and secure energy future, so the sooner we get on board with truly clean, renewable and efficient energy sources the sooner we’ll all arrive.

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