President Obama has pledged to decrease foreign oil imports by one-third over the next ten years, through a mixed policy of rising fuel economy standards, increased domestic oil and natural gas exploration, and continuing efforts to stimulate the growth of hybrid, electric, biofuel and natural gas vehicles. In a speech at Georgetown University, the President re-emphasized the need for adopting a comprehensive and far-reaching new energy plan in the face of rising fuel costs.
“The ups and downs in gas prices are usually temporary,” said Obama. “When you look at the long-term trends, though, there will be more ups than downs… there are no quick fixes.”
The speech highlighted a mix of old and new policies aimed at reducing foreign oil dependency. Among them:
- Incentives for expedited development of oil and gas resources, including a restructuring of the offshore leasing program intended to shorten the time it takes to get new sites producing.
- A goal of beginning construction on four full-scale cellulosic or advanced biofuels refineries by 2013.
- Increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for both cars and heavy-duty trucks. In September, the administration will set new numbers for 2025, which some advocates say could be rise as high as 60 mpg.
- Putting 1 million plug-in vehicles on American roads by 2015 under a policy of redesigned $7,500-per-vehicle credits, grants for communities with high plug-in adoption rates, and more funding for advanced battery research.
- An order mandating that all new vehicles purchased for the government fleet after 2015 be “alternative-fuel”—which includes hybrid, electric, natural gas, biofuel and hydrogen-powered drivetrains.
- Endorsement of the NAT GAS Act, a measure backed by former oil man T. Boone Pickens that would aim to dramatically increase the market penetration of commercial and consumer CNG transportation.
The President also took a stronger stance towards critics like former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who have charged that the administration could do more to stem the tide of high oil prices. “Any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve ‘shut down’ oil production might make for a useful political sound bite – but it doesn’t track with reality,” said Obama.
While the speech seems to indicate that the administration intends to be more aggressive in its pursuit of energy policies candidate Obama laid out more than two years ago, many questioned whether the aim of reducing oil importation by one-third in just ten years is reachable. “It’s hard to think of anything—short of an economic crash bigger than any ever seen in US history, or perhaps an alien race forcing all of us to take to our bicycles—that could conceivably accomplish such a goal,” read a response post at Grist.org.