By William Tucker on 3.2.12 @ 6:09AM
And it will all be his doing -- blaming Bush won't cut it anymore.
When President Obama suggested last week that we might eventually be replacing oil with algae, Mark Whittington of Yahoo suggested that the President had reached his "lunar base moment." It was an apt analogy. Just as Newt Gingrich's musings about a moon colony finally made the public cock its head a little when listening to him, so the moment may have arrived when the environmentalism fantasies that inhabit the President's brain will finally be exposed to the light of day.
As things stand now, $5 gas may shift the entire focus of the election onto energy and what the Administration's faculty-lounge policies have been doing to America's industrial base. To the public, "clean, green energy" will no longer be a dreamy vision of windmills and solar collectors but the hard reality of spending $100 to fill your tank. There's one more thing as well. This will be the first issue in four years where President Obama won't be able to cast reflexive blame on George Bush.
The President began his term with an Inaugural Address promise that "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories." He has kept that promise. Using the crowbar of the $1 trillion "stimulus," the Administration has shoehorned much of the country's energy investment into a Rube-Goldberg sector of the economy made up of the half-baked projects of armchair entrepreneurs plus the off-the-charts dreams of those wanting see the entire planet transformed into an environmental utopia.
Prompted by various federal and state government tax incentives plus market-obliterating "renewable mandates," hundreds of square miles of mountain and prairie have been covered with 45-story windmills that look like the archaeological remnants of a previous race of 80-foot giants. These "wind farms" generally produce electricity that is essentially useless. When the wind blows, windmills can force other forms of generation out of the market because they are free of fuel costs. But those other forms of generation have to be kept running just in case the wind dies down. Last year when temperatures rose to 110 degrees in Texas, that state's 7 percent "wind capacity" proved absolutely useless in the heat-induced doldrums.
And wind "farms," it should be noted, always talk in terms of "capacity" rather than output. That's because they only operate about 30 percent of the time. Nobody has yet invented a way to store commercial quantities of electricity and it may be impossible without building facilities of equally gargantuan dimensions -- say an entire city block of rechargeable batteries. Without any means of storage, wind power is essentially a nuisance.
Then there is solar electricity, which, in order to access, California is now planning to cover dozens of square miles of pristine desert (yes, there is already environmental opposition) in order to prove the world can run on sunshine. Solar energy is a bit more concentrated than wind so that it only takes about five square miles of highly polished collectors to produce 100 megawatts -- when the sun shines. In the desert environment, these solar panels will require constant cleaning and polishing to keep them from getting covered with dust and therefore becoming dysfunctional. It's a labor-intensive task that will require lots of water coming from who-knows-where.