Question: How can you tell when a politician is lying?
Barack Obama just promised to end our dependance on oil from the Middle East. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, horse puckey.
It doesn't matter what we do: drill, research alternative energy, raise CAFE standards . . . in 2018, we'll still be using oil. Even if we discovered a magic source of clean renewable energy tomorrow, we'd still be using a lot of oil, because transitions of that magnitude take time. A lot of time. If a price competitive solar heating system came out tomorrow, would you run out and buy one? Or would you wait until the oil heater broke?
Moreover, cutting our consumption of oil will not do anything to reduce our dependance on oil from the Middle East. First, because other countries--countries we trade with--will still be using the stuff, so changes in oil prices will continue to whipsaw our economy. And second, because the price of oil is set on the world market. If we cut world consumption back to 20 million barrels a day, we would be totally dependent on Middle Eastern oil, because they're the low-cost producers--it takes, if I recall correctly, less than $5 a barrel to pull oil out of the ground in Saudi. The Middle East will be the last place to close the taps. The more we cut world consumption, the more dependent we'll be on crazy Middle Eastern governments. Those governments might not be as rich. But we'll still need them just as much, as long as oil remains critical.
And it will remain critical. Not just because our battery technology is not up to a thoroughgoing changeover in our transportation system. But also because we use oil for other things. Plastics--you may have noticed there's quite a lot of that stuff around, in a lot of important consumer goods. Avgas--we won't get battery powered planes any time soon. Fertilizer, upon which the green revolution depends; without petrochemicals and natural gas derivatives, Soylent Green would look prescient instead of silly.
Needless to say, since we do not, in fact, have any technology that looks likely to replace hydrocarbons in the immediate future, this statement is even more
Barack Obama certainly knows all this. He has excellent advisors. But the American public wants to hear that they can legislate the Middle East into irrelevance and Global Warming into Indian Summer. So Barack Obama is going to tell them they can have this In Thirty Days with Absolutely No Side Effects! Not least because you can be sure, John McCain will be making the same
false statements exaggerated promises from his podium.
Answer: His lips are moving.