“It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply – and the way forward is through technology,” George W. Bush told the United States public in his yearly State of the Union address. “We must continue changing the way America generates electric power – by even greater use of clean coal technology… solar and wind energy… and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol – using everything from wood chips, to grasses, to agricultural wastes.”
The U.S. president also wants to reduce gasoline use by 20% over the next decade, increase the renewable and alternative fuels target fivefold, increase domestic oil production and double the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Justice Litle, on the Markets and Money energy beat, comments:
“This all sounds well and good. The trouble is professional speeches usually do.
“The real problem, in your humble editor’s opinion, is that the establishment – and much of the country – is still living in a fantasy world, where all problems can be solved via superficial commitments to ‘get ‘er done’ and the enthusiastic nodding of heads.
“Real pain? Genuinely uncomfortable change? No, we don’t need any of that. We’re entitled to the status quo. Can’t we just take some half-measure and be done with it? There’s got to be a painless way…we demand that superficial solutions and political lip service be enough. (Plus, free unicorn rides for all!)
“In reality, we will need all the measures the president highlighted – and then some – to make it through the serious energy challenges waiting for us ahead. And yet there are still millions of what-me-worry types happy to put their feet up and whistle Dixie, just because oil has backtracked a bit from last year’s high. It is their comfort, and the status quo standard of living, that is paramount. Not meaningful follow-through on measures that threaten discomfort.
“What the Pollyanna, what-me-worry types refuse to acknowledge is this: Premature complacency is the energy equivalent of a cake and ice cream diet. If a morbidly obese person celebrates with half a quart of Breyers every time he loses two pounds, how much lasting good will come out of it? If we are so confident that everything will simply ‘work out,’ where will the sense of urgency come from that forces us to take matters seriously?
“History does not put much store by the painless solution. Just as few diets are taken seriously until the heart attack or stroke or onset of diabetes looms, concerns of long-term urgency are generally not taken seriously until the cost becomes starkly clear.”
And our friends at Stratfor observe:
“U.S. President George W. Bush’s State of the Union message was framed by the release Monday of a CBS public opinion poll that shows Bush’s approval ratings falling to only 28 percent. Those are the lowest ratings he has ever received, and take him to levels seen late in Watergate, in the weeks leading to Nixon’s resignation.”
“Even if we discount the CBS poll [as being entirely biased], Bush is now edging from the area where we can call him a crippled president – if not a failed one – to an area where he could genuinely lose the ability to govern. If his numbers plunge into the 20s, a substantial number of Republican senators and congress members might well decide that it is time to cut their own political losses and break with the president openly. That is what happened to Nixon. Leaving out the question of resignation or impeachment – neither of which is possible under even worst-case scenarios – Bush could face a revolt by enough Republicans in Congress that funding cuts could be imposed even in the face of a presidential veto. Presidents who have two-thirds of the public thinking poorly of them and only a quarter liking them might hold the office, but they do not run the country – at least not very effectively.
“We are now very near to the point where Bush’s ability to govern, even in his role as commander-in-chief, is in jeopardy. We would judge that he is not quite there yet; but if other polls were to fall and stay in the 20s, the Republicans in Congress would split wide open. At this point, Bush is one piece of bad news away from paralysis. He could get lucky, but luck is one thing this president has not been able to count on.”