Climate + Energy

On Winners, Losers, and All of the Above

After the President’s State of the Union address and his call for an “all of the above” energy policy (actually, to quote, “an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy”), I tweeted:


I wasn’t kidding.  This “all of the above” approach to energy policy makes me cringe.  It’s a baseless and believes by mixing everything together, somehow we’ll come out with the best of everything on the other end.

The problem is, by mixing everything together, we rarely come out with anything good in the end (pancakes and sausage on a stick, anyone?).

And in the case of our energy, there’s a good reason for this.   It’s because an “all of the above” energy policy includes all of the worst kinds energy.   While my son mixing his sodas is gross, yet cute, an “all of the above” energy policy is downright disturbing.

Take coal, for example, which as I wrote before, actually costs our society more than the benefits it provides.

Or take natural gas, which scientists are increasingly finding can release significant amounts of greenhouse gases, to say the least about the water and air contamination it can cause.

And off-shore drilling?  Really?

I suppose “all of the above” makes for a good slogan.  Yet energy policy based on sloganeering is reckless.  It’s about as wise as making health care policy based on which pharmaceutical company has the hippest name for their prescription drugs.  That’s insane.

Which is the real problem here, that the President’s energy policy isn’t based on any rational assessment of what sources of energy really are good for our society.  It’s pure political pandering.

Sure, some would say that we shouldn’t pick winners and losers when it comes to our energy portfolio, but that’s absurd.  It’s like saying we shouldn’t pick winners and losers when dating.  Of course we should pick winners and losers, especially when it comes to something as important as our energy (or long-term relationships, for that matter).

In fact, I’ll take the liberty and help the President out here.  Below, I pick our nation’s energy winners and losers.  Simple enough.



Non-fossil fuels (e.g., wind solar, efficiency, conservation)

Fossil Fuels (e.g., coal, oil, oil shale, natural gas)

Tongue in cheek aside, I get that it’s laudable to want to keep all options on the able.  It’s like trying to spend a Friday night hanging out with friends at the bar and going out on a date.  Laudable, perhaps.  But perhaps not wise.

But what’s really bad about the President’s call for an “all-out, all-of-the-above” approach to energy development is that his Administration can’t even live up to this messed up ideal.

Take the latest decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to auction off more than 467 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, which produces 43% of the nation’s coal.  That brings the total amount of Powder River Basin coal recently auctioned or slated to be auctioned by the BLM to more than 6.8 billion tons.

Even though the President was recently in Denver pushing for 10 gigawatts of renewable energy development on public lands, the amount of coal slated to be mined in the Powder River Basin would be enough to power 100 gigawatts–10 times that amount–for nearly 25 years (an average 500 MW plant burns 1,430,000 tons of coal annually).

That’s on top of the fact that every mine in the Powder River Basin already has around 10 years of reserves to mine through.  Basically, under the Obama Administration, we’re being locked into another lifetime of coal.

Putting aside the grossness of an “all of the above” energy policy, it ultimately just seems to be a euphemism for “fossil fuels above all else.”  This isn’t an energy policy, it’s business as usual.

It’s time to pick winners.  And it’s time to embrace an energy policy that includes all the best sources energy.  President Obama can start by finally saying enough to this country’s destructive dependence on fossil fuels.

Unbelievably, in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, President Obama has actually called for more off-shore drilling.