Really, Mr. President?

25 Jan

Last night, I participated in an annual civic duty activity–watching the State of the Union address. It’s not that I’m a political junky or even remotely subscribe to more than a handful of the President’s political views. Neither did I tune into the talking heads segments after the speech to listen to erudite analysis of each measured phrase or opinions about which member of Congress or Judiciary clapped with the most enthusiasm.  However, as an American, I believe it’s important to spend an hour or so each year listening to what the country’s chief executive has to say, especially when the country faces so many daunting issues.

On the surface, it was a well-delivered address.  I expected nothing less from President Obama. If for no other reason, you have to admire his ability to deliver a prepared speech as well as Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, sans a bit of empathy. But as state of the union speeches go, other than it may well be Mr. Obama’s last, depending upon what happens this November, it wasn’t particularly memorable.

Ostensibly, it’s the sitting President’s opportunity to showcase leadership, providing an honest assessment of the nation’s state of affairs, and setting forth his vision and plans for the upcoming year. Budget to follow. Unfortunately, most are too long, short on specifics, and colored by the political agenda of the President’s party.

Of course, I was most keenly interested in what he had to say about energy. Not only is energy my vocation, it’s a common thread running through many of the challenges our country faces today. Energy is a fundamental aspect of any society.

We need it to cook, keep warm, and provide the security of light at night. It allows us to achieve incredible mobility.  It’s also the cornerstone of every developed society’s economy. Yet for all it’s importance, energy is ignored, taken for granted, treated with contempt, held in awe, sought out, used with impunity, politicized, and misunderstood more than any national issue.

After the speech, I couldn’t help but think that President Obama had once again added credence to Jon Stewart’s, “An Energy Independent Future” skit. If you aren’t familiar with the segment, watch it and you’ll agree. Sadly, it would be hysterically funny were it not so true.

President Obama spoke in grand terms about doubling down on domestic sources of energy, especially natural gas from shale. Opening more federal lands for drilling and embracing an, “All of the Above” approach to energy. Really, Mr. President?

What does ‘All of the Above” mean to you? You talked about encouraging responsible fracking to produce new gas supplies, but what about oil? In your 2008 campaign, you said you wanted to promote clean coal technologies, but nearly four years later, coal is a pariah within your administration. The same goes for nuclear energy which was seemly ignored well before Fukushima once again raised the level of nuclear anxiety. Finally, as we downsize the military, where is the money going to come from in the budget for constructing and paying the premium utility bills for those renewable energy sources on base?

Just one week after your administration rejected the Keystone oil pipeline, saying that you now embrace, “All of the Above,” stretches the limits of credulity. Politics once again reigns supreme over any prospects for a rational debate on a long-term energy strategy this year. My sincere hope is that Jon Stewart doesn’t need to add a ninth President to his skit next year.

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