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Inside Obama's energy lecture series: Honest talk or phony outreach?

Obama off on another Air Force One trip 4-6-11

It's been years since Barack Obama pumped gas into his family Ford.

But somebody told the president that gas prices are going up (another two cents a gallon nationally just yesterday).

Not only are the gas pump price numbers spinning way faster than the gallon numbers, but there's an almost palpable public unease afoot these days.

A compendium of concerns involving a third Middle Eastern war, millions of unemployed, frightening federal deficit numbers, stagnant real estate prices over the foreclosure glut, a string of awful natural disasters, an uncontrollable Congress and a detached president who most Americans want to like but whose public priorities (healthcare over jobs, windmills over jobs, foreign travel over Oval Office work) and private priorities (golf, family travel, parties) often make him seem more like an out-of-touch arrogant ruler than a humble public servant.

Makes you think maybe that elitist 2007 Iowa farm forum slip by Obama revealed more than realized at the time: "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”

Obama doesn't intend to do anything about the rising gas prices; that could ease the pressures to adopt his clean energy agenda. And, in fact, he has....

...imposed moratoriums that stalled much domestic oil drilling, the president needs to show he's connected to real people, what with his last campaign already four days old and his last election in just 579 days.

As the clock ticked down to tomorrow and the next in a lengthening series of deadlines for another interim federal budget that should have been finished last September, the president has been out in his 17-car motorcades and his 747 jumbojet talking about clean energy and not talking about his amazing carbon footprint.

The last time he did this was yesterday.

The next time he'll do this is tomorrow.

As usual, we published the full text of the president's remarks near Philadelphia Wednesday. You can read them right here.Obama talks of clean energy in Philadelphia 4-6-11

But since we suspect not everyone has the clean or dirty energy to read the 8,000-or-so words he laid on those poor, polite factory workers, we've combed the speech for some major points:

Obama has noticed a familiar game in Washington where elected representatives howl when gas prices go up and then forget about it when they go back down. Much like the people they allegedly represent.

So he's determined to change it. He's called for cutting foreign oil imports by one-third by 2018 when he won't be around politically and no one will remember this call.

Also, the president doesn't want China to win the race few knew we were in to become the world's windmill superpower.

Obama has also called for doubling the amount of energy produced by clean sources. That means he wants 80% of all electricity produced from wind and solar by 2035. A windmill on every car. (Also gas, clean coal and non-tsunamied nuclear power).

By the year 2035, the U.S. should be almost out of Afghanistan. Obama will be 74, only a few years short of new Social Security eligibility rules no doubt in place by then. And he won't remember last week's golf score, let alone this promise.

So how exactly, besides reelecting an ex-state senator as POTUS, does the United States achieve this energy Valhalla?

What we do is we set a target, an achievable goal, and then we give industry the flexibility to achieve it. We say to the utilities, you’ve got to get this much energy from renewable sources, and then wind is competing with solar is competing with natural gas. And there’s a healthy competition out there, and everybody starts getting better at what they do because you’re producing more and you know you’ve got a reliable customer for it.

No word on the exact identity of who this all-powerful "we" will be, setting goals and allocating responsibilities to energy providers and overseeing the competitions. But after 807 days of this expansive Obama administration, many might guess the authority would hButton Obama Winning the Futureave something to do with an enlarged federal government, preferably one run by his Democrats.

In his energy speeches the president also bemoans the lack of a federal budget -- not one planned to start Oct. 1, 2011. But one that should have started last Oct. 1.

Obama didn't have time in his 61 minutes of talking to note that it was the vast congressional majorities of his own Democratic Party that didn't make time to craft a federal budget last year.

Those majorities were considerably reduced by popular demand on Nov. 2, requiring messy negotiations now with a Republican-controlled House that thinks its concerns for cutting federal spending should take priority over Democrats' plans to spend more on infrastructure and research and education reform, among other items to win the future.

As if surprised, the president said: "So we’ve agreed to a compromise, but somehow we still don’t have a deal, because some folks are trying to inject politics in what should be a simple debate about how to pay our bills."

Even if those simple federal household bills now exceed $14 trillion.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images (Obama off on another Air Force One trip and speaking on clean energy in Philadelphia, April 6); Andrew Malcolm.

Comments () | Archives (16)

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Wow....very objective. >_>

all politics aside, China's investment into research and development of alternative energy (solar, wind, etc.) now dwarfs America's. China's investment into their energy infrastructure now dwarf's America's investment into its energy infrastructure.

Gee....which country is planning to be the next economic superpower?

Andrew, this piece is incredibly mis-informed and biased. I'm rather critical of Obama's energy plans - he's not doing enough - but at least I'm informed. The 80% clean energy goal by 2035 is not just wind and solar (unfortunately), it's also "efficient natural gas," nuclear and clean coal.

As for your belittling of the need to gain an edge in wind turbine (not "windmill," those are what you see in Holland) manufacturing, this is a serious industry with $100s of billions invested each year and one of the fastest growing power sources globally. Wind power added enough capacity in the last ten years to supply power to over 50 million people worldwide. That's far more than nuclear will add in the next ten years.

great article... i was visiting s.f. a couple weeks ago, and heard an announcement for an hour-long talk show debate over a proposal for a $2/gallon gas tax that would be used to pay down the national debt. i figured that since i was in a liberal city in a liberal state... that i'd hear some good arguments for taxing this valuable but finite natural resource. boy was i wrong. virtually 100% of the calls whined about high gas prices, and vilified the idea of a petroleum tax. there was no discussion of the new equilibrium that would be created... with increased market incentives for fuel-efficient transportation, alternative energy, conservation, etc, etc. sadly, no one is willing to make sacrifices to make it a better world for our kids, and their kids. and worse, we have no leaders willing to tell us what we need to hear.

You forgot to mention the egregious hypocrisy of our President telling us that we must end our dependancy on foreign oil, while promising Brazil that if they will pump more oil we’ll best their best customer.

We have untapped oil in our own country, the best way to reduce our dependance on foreign oil is to use our own resources. We shouldn't ask other countries to do that which we refuse to do ourselves.


But we do. We have Paul Ryan -- a man who will speak honestly to the American people. How has he ever survived in Washington, DC?

The price of a barrel of oil spiked today over $110 a barrel and is still going up. That means within days or weeks the average price of a gallon of gas will go over $4.00 a gallon on its way over $5.00. If Obama had allowed drilling to start in Anwar over 2 years ago, or offshore drilling to continue we might be producing or close to producing another 1 or 2 million barrels of oil a day domestically and prices would not be shooting up so fast. If Obama had sped the development of clean nuclear energy we and the oil industry might have a view to nuclear plans reducing our need for dirty goal and oil fired power plant, but of course Obama has seen to it that the newer safer nuclear plants are stalled because he has radical supporters who are opposed to evil nuclear power. So folks Obama's energy policy is to spend tens of billions on wind and solar that won't help us much for 30 to 50 years, and for you to pay more and use less. So when you fill up at the gas station at $6 a gallon soon stop on the way home and send Obama a thank you note! And don't worry about it too much. As the hundreds of billions of dollars in extra energy cost hit our weak debt ridden economy you might not have a job and won't need to buy gas to drive to work anymore. Lucky You!

Thanks for taking the time to point out the cognitive dissonance of our Dear Leader.

Cybexg, China, unlike the US before Obama, tells it's citizens what they must do.
While you highlight their investments in alternatives (far from cost effective), you ignored their absolutely massive investments in oil and natural gas reserves across the planet. Unlike the US, China isn't betting the farm on alternatives while disassembling their domestic oil producers, but making darned sure their people and businesses have access to oil for decades to come.

When gas hit 4$ almost three years ago, Obama and the Dems called for Senate hearings!!

Not they are back up to the same levels and the Dems are silent and Obama tells a town hall questioner to trade his car in if he doesn't like the gas prices.

What a tool.

there has not been one sentence of honest talk out of odumbo from day one. who are these people that support this clown? no one i know.

This is idiotic faux populist drivel! What are YOUR plans for energy independence? Drill baby drill? Did you listen to what Obama had to say or did you just write this with the Republican talking points in hand.
He articulated a comprehensive energy policy that didn't include the EVIL cap and trade. And demonize him for this totally moderate approach.

Gasoline is already over $4.00 a gallon here in California. By Memorial Weekend, it'll be $4.00 a gallon NATIONALLY. By Labor Day Weekend, it'll be $4.50 a gallon NATIONALLY. And come Labor Day 2012, it could easily be $5.00 a gallon NATIONALLY. IF that happens, the Republicans could run a house-plant against President Obama and win.

Why do I say a house-plant could defeat President Obama if my predictions happen? Next time you're in a store - ANY STORE - take a look around. Literally EVERYTHING in that store was brought in by truck. Trucks run on gasoline or diesel (which is even more expensive). So when fuel goes up, EVERYTHING goes up. Well, everything except wages. I'm old enough to remember "stagflation" under then-President Carter. Double-digit inflation AND double-digit unemployment. IF gasoline prices continue to rise, we WILL see the return of these things.

The problem is that this is a RIGHT NOW TODAY problem. Hybrids and electric cars and "green energy" are still years off. Why do I say that, because the majority of people either cannot or will not run out to buy them today. We'll wait until the cars we drive, or the trucks in our fleets, need to be be replaced. No money manager worth his or her weight in spit is going to recommend you spend 25k or more in this economy if you don't need to. So saying "go out and buy a hybrid" does not reflect the reality either of today's economy OR peoples' mindset.

"Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of Pimco, the world’s largest mutual fund, made news last month when he dumped all U.S. Treasurys from the $1 trillion fund he operates. I spoke with him by phone yesterday afternoon. He had a solemn warning: The United States has a year or two to change course or face a debt crisis akin to what Greece, Portugal and Ireland have experienced."

This is where Obama is taking us.

Cheer up! If the Supreme Court upholds the individual mandate, Congress can solve the energy crisis by forcing every one of us to buy a Volt and put a windmill in our back yards!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
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