President Obama has entered full-on campaign mode. In a speech yesterday, he claimed:
In his energy speech in Maryland, Obama blasted the Republicans for dismissing the prospects of such alternative energy sources as wind power, solar power and biofuels.
“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail,” he said, “they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society — they would not have believed that the world was round.”
He said, “They probably would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who said, “Television won’t last! It’s a flash in the pan!’”
He better hope that these technologies take off soon, because if they don’t it will be hard to walk back that comment. Of course, this is a ridiculous assertion.
First, lets start with biofuels. The biggest biofuel, ethanol produced from corn, has made a small dent in our oil consumption. However, its unlikely to exceed 10-15% market penetration because its still more costly than traditional gasoline, and even environmentalists have become skeptical of the alleged environmental benefits. And yet U.S. law mandates that we use more and more of it every year, which is horribly stupid policy. Seems like a good reason to be skeptical of government intervention in the energy industry.
Next, lets look at wind energy. Wind energy is currently more expensive than traditional fossil fuels but its not that far away. The same is true with solar, more expensive (though the price continues to drop, a positive sign). However, what President Obama doesn’t note is that both of these sources of power remain intermittent. You can only get electricity from windmills when the wind is blowing, and you can only get electricity from solar panels when the sun is shining. Humans don’t like waiting for their electricity, so this is going to remain a massive issue until (and this is assuming it eventually will be solved) electricity can be more effectively stored.
Storing electricity is difficult and experts have not figured out a feasible way to store electricity such that wind and solar power would be able to replace traditional “baseload” power like coal, nuclear, and natural gas. And there are plenty of savvy experts who don’t see this problem being solved anytime soon. Perhaps they’re involved with the flat-earth society as well.
Finally, along a similar theme, Obama continues to confuse the American public on our oil resources, as The Washington Post points out.