Drill, Obama, Drill: Administration Advocates for Expanded Domestic Drilling

President Obama gave a speech yesterday, on a plan to cut oil imports.   While at first, it may sound like this is a boon for sustainability, a deeper reading yields a tall tale for renewable energy.  The Obama plan cuts oil imports, but not cut oil.

The Obama Administration suggests a reduction in oil imports, “in 2008, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day.  By 2025 – a little over a decade from now – we will have cut that by one-third.”  But the question is, how does the Obama Administration propose this goal be met?

The Administration wants to expand domestic oil and gas development and production.  Regardless if this is done in a safe and responsible manner, it is still an expansion of fossil fuels.

Two crucial points spout out of this rig.  The first  point is the proposal to identify underdeveloped resources.  Of all the onshore leased acres, 57 percent were inactive.  Of all the offshore leased acres, 70 were inactive.  This implies that these oil and gas leases need to be activated.  From a renewable energy point of view, is this desirable?

The other point is developing incentives to speed up the development and production process of more oil.  The White House points to the State of Texas as a model for graduated royalty rate structures.  Again, from a renewable energy point of view, isn’t apt to speed this process up?

Clean energy, was also a key phrase used by the administration: “To move capital off of the sidelines and into the clean energy economy – creating jobs in the process – we need to give businesses and entrepreneurs a clear signal that there will be a market for clean energy innovation.

Clean energy is a green washing term.  Don’t get me wrong, clean energy is a great thing.  And we need more of it.  But the term diverges the discussion to still using fossil fuels, just more cleanly.  Fossil fuels are a scarce resource.  The discussion needs to move towards the direction of renewable energy, where there is a virtually infinite supply of energy waiting to be harnessed.

A clean energy market still means a market for oil and fossil fuels.

This plan to tap more domestic oil makes me wonder, would sustainability folks be a bit more vigilant if McCain were proposing the same exact plan?  Or would they be just as accepting.  On the flip side, do the “drill, baby, drill” folks reject the plan for clean energy and domestic oil drilling because it is coming from Obama?  What do you think of Obama himself promoting “drill, baby, drill?”

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.