Energy systems are large, complex and not well understood by even the most educated in our society; therefore our nation's leaders must ensure that the dialogue surrounding American energy policy is intellectually honest. Unfortunately, straight talk has proved to be a challenge for many lawmakers, including President Barack Obama.
Contrary to what Americans have been told by many political leaders, the United States has an abundance of energy resources. We just need to better produce, use and leverage those resources.
In his State of the Union address, Obama finally acknowledged the important role traditional fossil fuels play in our nation's economic and energy security future, especially discoveries of massive new domestic oil and natural gas supplies. Unfortunately, the rest of the president's message was misleading at best.
The president's claim that the credit for these new supplies goes to federal oil and natural gas research and development efforts omits the far more important roles of private-sector capitalism, innovation, perseverance, vision and hard work, along with strategic tax incentives. While the federal government has historically had an R&D program, the president failed to mention that his administration has continually sought to eliminate the R&D he now applauds. His administration is essentially rewriting history, like a Monday morning quarterback claiming to have thrown the winning touchdown.
To be sure, government-sponsored research has a role in ensuring that our resources are responsibly developed, but this is not what the president proposes. Directly contradicting the advice of his most elite scientific advisers, Obama's budget eliminates the public-private partnership approach in favor of a bureaucratic, government-directed program between the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey. There couldn't be a worse time to grow the DOE bureaucracy, especially when all motives point toward a vast expansion of federal regulatory jurisdiction.
DOE's track record isn't exemplary. The non-nuclear weapon portion of that agency is nothing short of a disaster. It is a gigantic political bureaucracy sorely in need of an overhaul and a significant reduction in size. Congress should closely scrutinize and re-evaluate the DOE and its budget.
Effective energy policy should be more than just additional federal regulations and mandates. We need energy policy that makes traditional energy smarter and more efficient instead of policy that strives to replace it at any cost.
A pragmatic policy starts with acknowledging the scale of traditional fuels, seeking substantial improvements in energy efficiency, working to practically integrate renewable energy into the grid and looking for synergies wherever possible.
The United States doesn't need policy that is idealistic; it needs policy that's realistic. Where Washington has failed to provide the leadership we need, states still can. Gov. Mary Fallin is doing exactly this with her comprehensive energy plan. Her sensible and pragmatic approach stands in stark contrast to the president's.
We need more intellectually honest discussion and smaller, smarter government. America deserves it.