Obama and the Future Fallacy
Everyone but the president is rethinking the promise of “green” energy.


Mona Charen

Speaking to students at a Maryland community college, President Obama indulged one of the Left’s favorite vanities — the claim to represent “the future.” His topic was energy. The president warned against Republicans who want “an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past.” He compared today’s Republicans who are less enthusiastic than he about government subsidies for “wind, solar, and biofuels” to the “Flat Earth Society” and to President Rutherford B. Hayes, who supposedly disdained the telephone.

The president had those students chuckling and grinning and feeling smugly superior to benighted Republicans who are so stuck in the past. They always were, look at Hayes!

You’d think that by now Mr. Obama might have been chastened about historical claims. He’s the one who told us that America invented the automobile, and that Kennedy had met with Khrushchev when we were on the brink of nuclear war. Actually, Kennedy met Khrushchev a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis. The car was invented in Germany. And far from dismissing the telephone, Hayes embraced the new technology and was the first president to have one installed at the White House.

If Mr. Obama had a better command of history, he’d be embarrassed to persist in the forwards/backwards, past/future meme for which he has such a weakness. He’d know, for example, that the story of Lincoln Steffens visiting the Soviet Union in 1919 and proclaiming “I have seen the future and it works” is remembered now ironically — for its obtuseness.

Similarly, Democrats were certain during the Cold War that if we didn’t want to be on the “wrong side of history,” in Senator Christopher Dodd’s words, we’d stop opposing the communist insurgencies.

Now the president would like to persuade us that the fuels of the future are “green” sources like solar, wind, biomass, and so forth. On multiple occasions, the president has warned that other nations are racing ahead of us to develop green technologies and green energy sources. The stimulus bill contained $2.3 billion in tax credits for “green” manufacturers. But Obama wants us to join just as the others are coming to their senses.

Kenneth P. Green, writing at The American, notes that Obama pin-up Spain (lauded by Obama as a “worldwide leader in renewable energy”) is in “full retreat” from its solar subsidies. A 2009 study found that, since 2000, Spain has spent 571,138 euros for each green job created. The same study estimates that Spain lost 2.2 private-sector jobs for every of those so-called green jobs. Since then, Spain has been backing away from this debacle. According to Bloomberg News:

Spain halted subsidies for renewable energy projects to help curb its budget deficit and rein in power-system borrowings backed by the state that reached 24 billion euros ($31 billion) at the end of 2011. “What is today an energy problem could become a financial problem,” Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria said in Madrid.

Across Europe, reports the Washington Post, governments are cutting way back on subsidies to solar energy. “German policymakers indicated last week that they planned to cut once-generous subsidies as much as 29 percent. . . . Britain and Italy have made similar moves, and in January, Spain abandoned its subsidies altogether.”


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