Planet Gore

Those Obama Green Blues

Green disciple President Obama on Thursday went to the heart of Oklahoma oil and gas country to proclaim himself a born-again carbon believer. He embraced the Keystone XL oil pipeline just days after taking credit for the American oil shale boom he once scorned — a revolution that now promises to bring 100 years of cheap oil resources to the United States.

“Right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.” the president said. “Now, you wouldn’t know all this from listening to the television set.”

Nor would you know it from listening to him for the last five years.

It wasn’t supposed to work out this way. In 2007, Obama launched his campaign for president as a green missionary who would eliminate sinful carbon fuels in order to combat global warming, “one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.”

In 2007 before the Detroit Economic Club, Obama chastised a roomful of auto executives for making immoral cars. He told them that alternative-fuel cars were the vehicles of the future and promised that, when he was elected, he would “demand that they revamp their production. All of us have a responsibility here, and all of us are required to act.”

In 2008 Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, declared that the era of coal was over. That same year, Obama’s future Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, told the Wall Street Journal that “somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

Upon entering in office in 2009, Obama and Biden went about implementing their plans for a green crusade, diverting up to $100 billion of the stimulus package to green tech, from battery makers to solar panels.

Obama hailed algae as tomorrow’s fuel while scorning the oil and gas revolution taking place from the Dakotas to Pennsylvania. “‘Oil and gas will be important for the next few years,” he lectured Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm, the discoverer of North Dakota’s huge Bakken oil fields. “But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.”

President Algae charged his EPA to go to war against Hamm and his industry (Washington keeps “sticking a regulatory boot at our necks” says Hamm), shut down coal production, and strangle oil exploration. Pooh-poohing the resulting job losses, Obama echoed the words of green priest Al Gore in proclaiming a new era of green jobs.

Three years later, that vision is in shambles.

Obama’s Chevy Volt — the car the president saved GM to build — has been a flop, its production line idled by lack of demand. Federal funding for firms from Solyndra to Beacon Power to A123 Systems resulted, not in a jobs boom, but in bankruptcies and laid-off workers.

With soaring gas prices and a stumbling economy threatening his re-election, Obama is trying an election-year conversion. Desperate to counter his anti-energy image, he went all the way to Oklahoma for a silly photo-op in front of oil pipe to approve a project that doesn’t need federal approval. Like Mike Dukakis in a tank, President Algae looked ridiculous.

But his administration’s low point came in public hearings earlier this month when DOE High Priest Chu was forced to confess his high-gas-price sins, admitting that they were a drag on the economic recovery. What a journey these Green Church elders have made. The high energy prices they once promised would spur economic growth now threaten it.

It seems global warming is not the greatest moral challenge of Obama’s generation after all. Getting re-elected is.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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