This morning President Barack Obama took on the issue of energy policy during an address at Georgetown University. Using the recent events in Japan and Libya to underscore the need to discuss how the U.S. gets its energy, Obama outlined what he thinks we should be doing. Here are some takeaway nuggets from the address:
1. Reduce American oil imports by 30 percent
The only completely new policy unveiled today called for America to reduce oil imports by about one third by the year 2025. Obama called the goal, “reasonable, achievable and necessary.” He admitted that to do this, America would have to increase production at home. “I know how passionate young people are about climate change. The fact is that America is going to be dependent on oil for quite some time.”
2. America’s oil supply is not enough
After talking about how increasing American oil production is key to getting us off of foreign oil, Obama pointed out that the United States' oil reserves will still only make up about 2 percent of the world’s supply. The president also said that right now, oil companies in the United States aren’t developing the oil supplies they have while they are asking for more. “Right now, the oil companies hold tens of millions of acres of drillable land where they are not producing a single drop.”
3. Natural gas: Big potential if done right
Obama explained that natural gas production is vital to transitioning the United States off of foreign oil. However, Obama used the spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a reason to proceed with care when it comes to drilling for gas in the U.S. “Just as it is true with oil, we need to find out if they can do it safely,” he said. Obama then called for the creation of a commission that included Energy Secretary Steven Chu to find best way to develop gas “responsibly and safely.” Much of this study is expected to focus on hydraulic fracking, a controversial method for gas extraction that has become increasingly popular in the last 10 years.
4. Battery production key to electric cars
The president spent a large portion of his address making the case for electric cars. This dovetailed nicely with his plan for reducing our foreign oil dependency, but he also raised the benefit to our manufacturing base as another reason to go electric. Batteries, according to Obama, are the key. He said innovation on electric vehicle batteries will not only drive improvements and marketability for electric vehicles, but it may also put people to work. “America can be the manufacturing center for those batteries," he said. Obama also pointed out that electric cars run on electricity. Yes, that's sort of obvious, but the statement underscores the point that our electricity comes from various sources, including dirty ones. Obama also talked about improvements to clean coal technology and energy efficiency.
5. Nuclear power is still a part of America
“We simply cant take it off the table,” the president said after pointing out that the United States gets one-fifth of its energy from nuclear power plants. As for the concerns about Japan, Obama said that the disaster in Japan has led his administration to call for a new international framework on nuclear safety to be created. He added that his administration would lead that effort.
Obama spoke for nearly 45 minutes and ended on his typically positive note, focusing on how the U.S. can take on challenges of the future. He was perhaps most measured when he simply stated facts about how supply-and-demand issues for global energy will lead to more ups than downs when it comes to fuel prices. Most of these ups, according to the president, are due to the rapidly emerging economies of India and China. These realities, he said, are justification for action. “We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again."