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The environMENTALIST: What can we deduce about Obama from his additions to his big energy speech?

By Joe Romm on April 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm

"The environMENTALIST: What can we deduce about Obama from his additions to his big energy speech?"

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http://sharetv.org/images/the_mentalist-show.jpgOne of my guilty pleasures is the CBS crime show, The Mentalist.  One-time fake psychic Patrick Jane uses his powers of observation and deduction to figure out a lot about people based on their appearance or how they say things.

Despite our 24/7 media coverage of the president, what he really feels about many key issues — notably climate and energy — remains opaque even to those who follow him closely.  Does he “get it” on global warming?  His actions — and lack of words — obviously suggest that he does not.  But who knows?  He clearly doesn’t get it enough to break out of the box that his handlers and the David Axelrod have put him into.

We have, however, been given a possible window into how he looks at energy and climate — and speechmaking.  The big speech that Obama gave last week on energy security was released in two forms:  “As Prepared for Delivery” and “As Actually Delivered.”

Let’s make what I think is a fairly reasonable assumption that the overwhelming majority of the changes in the speech were by Obama himself.

Here then is the speech with additions in boldface and the few deletions in strike through, plus some running commentary:

We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world.  In a matter of months, we’ve seen regimes toppled.  We’ve seen democracy take root in North Africa and in the Middle East.  We’ve witnessed a terrible earthquake, a catastrophic tsunami, a nuclear emergency that has battered one of our strongest allies and closest friends in the world’s third-largest economy.  We’ve led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region.  (Applause.)

And as Americans, we’re heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events.  We’re deeply moved by the thirst for freedom in so many nations, and we’re moved by the strength and the perseverance of the Japanese people.  And it’s natural, I think, to feel anxious about what all of this means for us.

And one big area of concern has been the cost and security of our energy.  Obviously, the situation in the Middle East implicates our energy security.  The situation in Japan leads us to ask questions about our energy sources.

In an economy that relies so heavily on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody — workers, farmers, truck drivers, restaurant owners, students who are lucky enough to have a car. (Laughter.)  Businesses see it rising prices at the pump hurt their bottom line.  Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank.  And for Americans that are already struggling to get by, a hike in gas prices really makes their lives that much harder.  It hurts.

If you’re somebody who works in a relatively low-wage job and you’ve got to commute to work, it takes up a big chunk of your income.  You may not be able to buy as many groceries.  You may have to cut back on medicines in order to fill up the gas tank.  So this is something that everybody is affected by.

Probably the biggest changes Obama makes in this speech are to personalize things for the listener and to repeat his key points — two important strategy for any good speechmaker.

Also, for all the criticism of him as “Mr. Spock,” he is making (Bill) Clinton-esque “I feel your pain” additions that seem quite genuine.  That would be doubly true if these changes were made on the fly — while actually giving the speech — which seems likely.

Now, here’s the thing — we have been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon.  I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaignWorking folks haven’t forgotten that. Working folks certainly remember because it hit a lot of people pretty hard.  And because we were at the height of political season, you had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians — they were waving their three-point plans for $2 a gallon gas.  You remember that — “drill, baby, drill” — and we were going through all that. (Laughter.)  And none of it was really going to do anything to solve the problem.  There was a lot of hue and cry, a lot of fulminating and hand-wringing, but nothing actually happened.  Imagine that in Washington.  (Laughter.)

This mention of the campaign and “drill, baby, drill” is closest he ever gets in this entire speech to explaining to the public why our energy policy is so inane.

The truth is, none of these gimmicks, none of these slogans made a bit of difference.  When gas prices finally did fall, it was mostly because the global recession had led to less demand for oil.  Companies were producing less; the demand for petroleum went down; prices went down.  Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up.  Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising that oil prices are higher.  And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents.

The point is the ups and downs in gas prices historically have tended to be temporary.  But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices.  And that’s because you’ve got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods and driving more carsthey want cars just like we’ve got cars; and using more energy they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we’ve got — it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply.  It’s just a fact.

Obama repeats the denigration of slogans.  Perhaps it’s not a big deal, but for someone who campaigned and won with a pretty good slogan, “Change we can believe in” but who has subsequently eschewed them, at least until the lame “Winning the future,” it is a tiny window into one reason why speechmaking has not been terribly impressive or memorable since becoming president.

So here’s the bottom line:  There are no quick fixes.  Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you the truth.  And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future.

We’re going to have to think long term, which is why I came here, to talk to young people here at Georgetown, because you have more of a stake in us getting our energy policy right than just about anybody.

More empathizing here with the student audience — and with good reason.

Now, here’s a source of concern, though. We’ve known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades.  Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil.  And every President since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. Presidents and Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet.

He expands on the failure of previous presidents.

I’ve pledged to reduce America’s dependence on oil too, I talked about reducing America’s dependence on oil when I was running for President, and I’m proud of the historic progress that we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal, and we’ll talk about that a little bit.  But I’ve got to be honest. We’ve run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades.

Interesting that he drops the “pledge.”

That has to change.  That has to change.

We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back downwe go back to doing the same things we’ve been doing until the next time there’s a price spike, and then we’re shocked again.  We can’t rush to propose action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when they fall again.  We can’t keep on doing that.

This is naturalistic rhetoric of a kind the president doesn’t seem to use in his really big speeches anymore.  Simple language, repetition, and even a metaphor!

The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, and our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the groundNot anymore.  Not We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high.  Not when your generation needs us to get this right.  It’s time to do what we can to secure our energy future.

And today, I’m setting I want to announce a new goal, one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary.

When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day.  By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.  That is something that we can achieve. (Applause.)  We can cut our oil dependence — we can cut our oil dependence by a third.

I set this goal knowing that imported oil we’re still going to have to import some oil.  It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time, until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force.  And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, we can partner with obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources.  We also have to look at other countries like and Brazil.  Part of the reason I went down there is to talk about energy with the Brazilians.  They recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and we can share American technology and know-how with them as they develop these resources.

More personalization — and defending his recent trip.

But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard — because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can’t match:  American ingenuity.  American ingenuity, American know-how.

To make ourselves more secure, to control our energy future, we’re going to have to harness all of that ingenuity.  It’s a task we won’t be finished with by the end of my presidency, or even by the end of the next presidency.  But if we continue the work that we’ve already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations — we will leave your generation and future generations with a country that is safer, that is healthier, and that’s more prosperous.

So today, my administration is releasing a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlines the a comprehensive national energy policy, one that we’ve been pursuing since the day I took office.  And cutting our oil dependence by a third is part of that plan.

Here at Georgetown, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about how we can achieve these goals.

Now, meeting the goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things:  first, finding and producing more oil at home; second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

This begins by continuing to increase America’s oil supply. Even for those of you who are interested in seeing a reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels — and I know how passionate young people are about issues like climate change — the fact of the matter is, is that for quite some time, America is going to be still dependent on oil in making its economy work.

Yet another direct appeal to young people, though in an odd way, since 1) he makes it look like the passion about climate change is somehow unique to young people and 2) he is using it to segue into more drilling for fossil fuels.

Now, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003.  And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed.  So that was a good trend. To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production — as long as it’s safe and responsible.

I don’t think anybody here has forgotten what happened last year, that we’re not even a year removed from where we had to deal with the largest oil spill in [our] history. I know the people of some of the fishermen down in the Gulf Coast haven’t forgotten itAnd what we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility.  For example, if you’re going to drill in deepwater, you’ve got to prove before you start drilling that you can actually contain an underwater spill.  That’s just common sense.

And lately, we’ve been hearing folks saying, well, the Obama administration, they put restrictions on how oil companies operate offshore.  Well, yes, because we just spent all that time, energy and money trying to clean up a big mess.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have amnesia.  I remember these things.  (Laughter.)  And I think it was important for us to make sure that we prevent something like that from happening again.  (Applause.)

Now, today, we’re working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these higher standards.  Since they were put in, we’ve approved 39 new shallow-water permits; we’ve approved seven deepwater permits in recent weeks.  When it comes to drilling offshore, my administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill.  So any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production, any claim like that is simply untrue.  It might make for a useful sound bite, but it doesn’t track with reality.

What is true is we’ve said if you’re going to drill offshore you’ve got to have a plan to make sure that we don’t have the kind of catastrophe that we had last year.  And I don’t think that there’s anybody who should dispute that that’s the right strategy to pursue.

Moreover, we’re actually pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities that they’ve already got.  Right now the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where they’re not producing a single drop.  They’re just sitting on supplies of American energy that are ready to be tapped.  That’s why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources.

We’re also exploring and assessing new frontiers for oil and gas development from Alaska to the Mid- and South Atlantic states, because producing more oil in America can help lower oil prices, can help create jobs, and can enhance our energy security, but we’ve got to do it in the right way.

But let’s be honest Now, even if we increase domestic oil production, that is not going to be the long-term solution to our energy challenge.  I give out this statistic all the time, and forgive me for repeating it again: America holds about 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.  What that means is, is that even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess — offshore and onshore — it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs.  We consume about 25 percent of the world’s oil.  We only have 2 percent of the reserves.  Even if we doubled U.S. oil production, we’re still really short.

The President emphasizes how pointless the drilling is — making clear for anybody who’s paying attention that it’s done for purely political reasons.

All of this means one thing: So the only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil.  We’re going to have to find ways to boost our efficiency so we use less oil.  We’ve got to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy that also produce less carbon pollution, which is threatening our climate.  And we’ve got to do it quickly.

Now, in terms of new sources of energy, we have a few different options.  The first is natural gas.  Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves — perhaps a century’s worth of reserves, a hundred years worth of reserves — in the shale under our feet.  But just as is true in terms of us extracting oil from the ground, we’ve got to make sure that we’re extracting natural gas safely, without polluting our water supply.

That’s why I’ve asked Secretary Chu, my Energy Secretary, to work with other agencies, the natural gas industry, states, and environmental experts to improve the safety of this process.  And Chu is the right guy to do this. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but He’s got a Nobel Prize in physics.  He actually deserved his Nobel Prize. (Laughter and applause.)  And this is the kind of thing that he likes to do for fun on the weekend. (Laughter.)  He goes into his garage and he tinkers around and figures out how to extract natural gas.  (Laughter.)

I’m going to embarrass him further.  (Laughter.)  Last year, when we were trying to fill — figure out how to close the cap, I sent Chu down to sit in the BP offices, and he essentially designed the cap that ultimately worked, and he drew up the specs for it and had BP build it, construct it.  So this is somebody who knows what he’s doing.  (Applause.)  So for those of you who are studying physics, it may actually pay off someday.  (Laughter.)

Wow.  President Obama actually taking credit for something big — helping to plug the BP well.  Too bad that he refuses to make a habit of this so that nobody knows any of this.  God forbid that he actually explain that he saved General Motors and that seems to be working out.

But the potential for natural gas is enormous.  And this is an area where there’s actually been some broad bipartisan agreement.  Last year, more than 150 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle produced legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. And that’s a big deal.  Getting 150 members of Congress to agree on anything is a big deal. And they were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil, but who is out there making the simple point that we can’t simply drill our way out of our energy problems.

So I ask members of Congress and all the interested parties involved to keep at it, pass a bill that helps us achieve the goal of extracting natural gas in a safe, environmentally sound way.

Now, another substitute for oil that holds tremendous promise is renewable biofuels — not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass and wood chips and biomass.

If anybody doubts the potential of these fuels, consider Brazil.  As I said, I was just there last week. Half of Brazil’s vehicles can run on biofuels – half of their fleet of automobiles can run on biofuels instead of petroleum. Just last week, our Air Force — our own Air Force — used an advanced biofuel blend to fly a Raptor 22 — an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound.  Think about that. I mean, if an F-22 Raptor can fly at the speed of – faster than the speed of sound on biomass, then I know the old beater that you’ve got, that you’re driving around in — (laughter) — can probably do so, too.  There’s no reason why we can’t have our cars do the same.

More personalization of all kinds.

In fact, the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016.  And I’m directing the Navy and the Department of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced biofuels that can power not just fighter jets, but also trucks and commercial airliners.

So there’s no reason we shouldn’t be using these renewable fuels throughout America.  And that’s why we’re investing in things like fueling stations and research into the next generation of biofuels.  One of the biggest problems we have with alternative energy is not just producing the energy, but also distributing it.  We’ve got gas stations all around the country, so whenever you need gas you know you can fill up — it doesn’t matter where you are.  Well, we’ve got to have that same kind of distribution network when it comes to our renewable energy sources so that when you are converting to a different kind of car that runs on a different kind of energy, you’re going to be able to have that same convenience.  Otherwise, the market won’t work; it won’t grow.

The President understands the alternative fuel subject and can explain it simply.

Over the next two years, we’ll help entrepreneurs break ground for four next-generation biorefineries — each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year.  And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure that they’re meeting today’s challenges and that they’re also saving taxpayers money.

So as we replace oil with fuels like natural gas and biofuels, we can also reduce our dependence by making cars and trucks that use less oil in the first place.  Seventy percent of our petroleum consumption goes to transportation — 70 percent.  And by the way, so does the second biggest chunk of most families’ budgets goes into transportation. And that’s why one of the best ways to make our economy less dependent on oil and save folks more money is to make our transportation sector more efficient.

Now, we went through 30 years where we didn’t raise fuel efficiency standards on cars.  And part of what happened in the U.S. auto industry was because oil appeared relatively cheap, the U.S. auto industry decided we’re just going to make our money on SUVs, and we’re not going to worry about fuel efficiency.  Thirty years of lost time when it comes to technology that could improve the efficiency of cars.

As I wrote at the time, Obama went off of his prepared remarks to point out that we haven’t increased fuel economy standards in 30 years “” but the President never bothers to explain to the public that’s because Republicans opposed such increases!  And so it looks like he is saying both parties are equally culpable and equally incompetent.  Is it any wonder so much of the public agrees?

So last year, we established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks.  We did this last year without legislation.  We just got all the parties together and we got them to agree — automakers, autoworkers, environmental groups, industry.

So that means our cars will be getting better gas mileage, saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program — 1.8 billion.  Our consumers will save money from fewer trips to the pump — $3,000 on average over time you will save because of these higher fuel efficiency standards.  And our automakers will build more innovative products.  Right now, there are even cars rolling off the assembly lines in Detroit with combustion engines — I’m not talking about hybrids combustion engines that get more than 50 miles per gallon.  So we know how to do it.  We know how to make our cars more efficient.

But going forward, we’re going to continue to work with the automakers, with the autoworkers, with states, to ensure the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars and trucks of tomorrow are built right here in the United States of America.  That’s going to be a top priority for us. (Applause.)

This summer, we’re going to propose the first-ever fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks.  And this fall, we’ll announce the next round of fuel standards for cars that builds on what we’ve already done.

To achieve our oil goal, And by the way, the federal government is going to need to lead by example.  The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country.  We’ve got a lot of cars. And that’s why we’ve already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet.  And that’s why today I am directing agencies to purchase 100 percent alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015.  All of them should be alternative fuel.  (Applause.)

Going forward, we’ll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets.  And this means, by the way, that you students, as consumers or future consumers of cars, you’ve got to make sure that you are boosting demand for alternative vehicles.  You’re going to have a responsibility as well, because if alternative-fuel vehicles are manufactured but you guys aren’t buying them, then folks will keep on making cars that don’t have the same fuel efficiency.  So you’ve got power in this process, and the decisions you make individually in your lives will say something about how serious we are when it comes to energy independence.

Well, students aren’t really the big purchasers of expensive new alternative fuel vehicles, so let’s call that call that an air ball.

We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering all Americans, whether they are urban, suburban, or rural, the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.

Still, there are few breakthroughs as promising for increasing fuel efficiency and reducing our dependence on oil as electric vehicles.  Soon after I took office, I set a goal of having one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015.  We’ve created incentives for American companies to develop these vehicles, and for Americans who want them to buy them.

So new manufacturing plants are opening over the next few years. And a modest $2 billion investment in competitive grants for companies to develop the next generation of batteries for these cars has jumpstarted a big new American industry.  Pretty soon, America will be home to 40 percent of global manufacturing capacity for these advanced batteries.

And for those of you who are wondering what that means, the thing that’s been holding back electric vehicles is the battery that stores that electricity, that energy.  And the more efficient, the more lightweight we can make those batteries, the easier it is to manufacture those cars at a competitive price.

And if we can have that industry here in the United States of America, that means jobs.  If those batteries are made here, the cars are made here.  Those cars are made here, we’re putting Americans back to work.

Now, to make sure we stay on this goal we’re going to need to do more — by offering more powerful incentives to consumers, and by rewarding the communities that pave the way for the adoption of these vehicles.

Now, one other thing about electric cars — and you don’t need to talk to Chu about this — it turns out electric cars run on electricity.  (Laughter.)  And so even if we reduce our oil dependency, and we’re producing all these great electric cars, a smart, comprehensive energy policy requires that we’re going to have to have a plan to change the way we generate electricity in America so that it’s cleaner and safer and healthier.  We know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential of creating untold numbers of new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States.  But we’re going to have to think about how do we produce electricity more efficiently.

Now, in addition to producing it, we actually also have to think about making sure we’re not wasting energy.  I don’t know how we’re doing on the Georgetown campus, Mr. President, but every institution and every household has to start thinking about how are we reducing the amount of energy that we’re using and doing it in more efficient ways.

Today, our homes and businesses consume 40 percent of the energy that we use, and it costs us billions of dollars in energy bills.  Manufacturers that require large amounts of energy to make their products, they’re challenged by rising energy costs.  And so you can’t separate the issue of oil dependence from the issue of how we are producing generally — more energy generally.

And that’s why we’ve proposed new programs to help Americans upgrade their homes and businesses and plants with new, energy-efficient building materials — new lighting, new windows, new heating and cooling systems — investments that will save consumers and business owners tens of billions of dollars a year, and free up money for investment and hiring and creating new jobs and hiring more workers and putting contractors to work as well.

The nice thing about energy efficiency is we already have the technology.  We don’t have to create something new.  We just have to help businesses and homeowners put in place the installation, the energy-efficient windows, the energy-efficient lighting.  They’ll get their money back.  You will save money on your electricity bill that pays for those improvements that you made, but a lot of people may not have the money up front, and so we’ve got to give them some incentives to do that.

Good to see the President add this straight out pitch for efficiency

And just like the fuels we use in our cars, we’re going to have to find cleaner renewable sources of electricity.  Today, about two-fifths of our electricity come from clean energy sources.  But we can do better than that.  I think that with the right incentives in place, we can double our use of clean energy. And that’s why, in my State of the Union address back in January, I called for a new Clean Energy Standard for America:  By 2035, 80 percent of our electricity needs to come from a wide range of clean energy sources — renewables like wind and solar, efficient natural gas. to clean coal and nuclear power. And, yes, we’re going to have to examine how do we make clean coal and nuclear power work.

Now, in light of the ongoing events in Japan, I want to just take a minute to talk about nuclear power.  Right now, America gets about one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy.  And it’s important to recognize that nuclear energy doesn’t emit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  So those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’ve got to recognize that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question.

The President adds “climate change” twice.  He scores big points for repetition, but it’s kind of lame in this context of pushing nuclear power with no mention of cost, and the phrase “the climate change question” is devoid of any visceral connectionto what we are doing to the climate now.

And I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.  So in light of what’s happened in Japan, I’ve requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that all of our existing nuclear energy facilities are safe.  And we’re going incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in design and the building of the next generation of plants.  But we can’t simply take it off the table.

My administration is leading global discussions towards a new international framework in which all countries who are operating nuclear plants are making sure that they’re not spreading dangerous nuclear materials and technology.

But more broadly, a clean energy standard can expand the scope of clean energy investments because what it does is it gives cutting-edge companies the certainty that they need to invest.  Essentially what it does is it says to companies, you know what, you will have a customer if you’re producing clean energy.  Utilities, they need to buy a certain amount of clean energy in their overall portfolio, and that means that innovators are willing to make those big capital investments.

And we’ve got to start now because — think about this – in the 1980s, America was home to more than 80 percent of the world’s wind capacity, 90 percent of the world’s solar capacity. We were the leaders in wind.  We were the leaders in solar. We owned the clean energy economy in the ’80s.  Guess what. Today, China has the most wind capacity.  Germany has the most solar capacity.  Both invest more in clean energy than we do, even though we are a larger economy and a substantially larger user of energy.  We’ve fallen behind on what is going to be the key to our future.

Other countries are now exporting technology we pioneered and they’re going after the jobs that come with it because they know that the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy.

I want America to be that nation.  I want America to win the future.  (Applause.)

So a clean energy standard will help drive private investment in innovation.  But I want to make this point: Government funding will still be critical.  Over the past two years, the historic investments my administration has made in clean and renewable energy research and technology have helped private sector companies grow and hire hundreds of thousands of new workers.

I’ve visited gleaming new solar arrays that are among the largest in the world.  I’ve tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line.  I mean, I didn’t really test it — I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop.  (Laughter.) I’ve toured factories that used to be shuttered, where they’re now building advanced wind blades that are as long as 747s, and they’re building the towers that support them.  And I’ve seen the scientists that are searching for the next big breakthrough in energy.  None of this would have happened without government support.

Now, in light of our I understand we’ve got a tight fiscal situation, so it’s fair to ask how do we pay for government’s investment in energy. And as we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we’re going to have to make some tough choices.  We’re going to have to cut what we don’t need to invest in what we do need.

Unfortunately, some folks want to cut critical investments in clean energy.  They want to cut our research and development into new technologies.  They’re shortchanging the resources necessary even to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling.  These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs; it would terminate scientists and engineers; it would end fellowships for researchers, some who may be here at Georgetown, graduate students and other talent that we desperately need to get into this area in the 21st century.  That doesn’t make sense.

Sadly, this was in the original text.  Obama and his entire communications team never says who these self-destructive budget cutters are.  It’s like he’s playing college basketball and the GOP are in the NBA.

We’re already paying a price for our inaction.  Every time we fill up at the pump, every time we lose a job or a business to countries that are investing more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet that you will inherit — we’re already paying a price.  These are costs that we are already bearing.  And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.

So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil.  That’s not a game plan to win the future. That’s a vision to keep us mired in the past.  I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America.  We are not going to do that.  (Applause.)

Obama’s speechwriter quietly repeats his current (lame) slogan, “win the future,” but Obama would not seem to think it is rhetorically strong enough to merit repeating.  Duh.

Let me close by speaking directly to the students here — the next generation who are going to be writing the next great chapter in the American story.  The issue of energy independence is one that America has been talking about since before your parents were your age, since before you were born.  And you also happen to go to a school [in a town] that for a long time has suffered from a chronic unwillingness to come together and make tough choices.  And so I forgive you for thinking that maybe there isn’t much we can do to rise to this challenge.  Maybe some of you are feeling kind of cynical or skeptical about whether we’re actually going to solve this problem. But everything I have seen and experienced with your generation convinces me otherwise.

How interesting he added that line about feeling cynical.  No doubt it is true — and not just of the people sitting in the audience.

I think that precisely because you are coming of age at a time of such rapid and sometimes unsettling change, born into a world with fewer walls, educated in an era of constant information, tempered by war and economic turmoil — because that’s the world in which you’re coming of age, I think you believe as deeply as any of our previous generations that America can change and it can change for the better.

We need that.  We need you to dream big.  We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism and that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness — to save a democracy, to touch the moon, to connect the world with our own science and our own imagination.

That’s what America is capable of.  That’s what you have to push America to do, and it will be you that pushes it. That history of ours, of meeting challenges – that’s your birthright. You understand that there’s no problem out there that is not within our power to solve.

I don’t want to leave this challenge for future Presidents. I don’t want to leave it for my children.  I don’t want to leave it for your children.  So, yes, solving it will take time and it will take effort.  It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies.  It will require all of us — Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between — to do our part.  But with confidence in America and in ourselves and in one another, I know this is a challenge that we will solve.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Well, his additions certainly improve the speech.  They show that his natural tendency is to personalize speeches, to try to connect with the audience where they are.  We see that he is very knowledgeable on this subject and does care about it a great deal.

As President, he is forced to give more speeches written by speech writers, which is one reason his speeches are nowhere near as good as the ones he wrote before he became president.

He added a bunch of “climate change” references, which is certainly a good thing, but he never spells out why the listener should care about climate change, so other than demonstrating that he knows about the problem, the speech becomes yet another wasted opportunity.

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35 Responses to The environMENTALIST: What can we deduce about Obama from his additions to his big energy speech?

  1. with the doves says:

    Great job – very interesting exercise. Even with the additions (for the most part improvements) the speech was still murky, though. The best part imo was that it clearly said that oil is limited and we need to change our level of oil consumption. What is frustrating is that he seems to understand our energy issues but does not speak clearly about them or energetically push for sane policies (which, given his apparent understanding, he should support).

  2. Mimikatz says:

    One reason Obama doesn’t demonize the GOP is that he won with votes of many moderates who hadmpreviously voted GOP. As one friend explained to me, it was easier to make the leap to support Obama in 2008 because he did NOT demonize business or GOPers. He does sometimes take on the far right, but I think this is why he soft-pedals much of his rhetoric. In addition, there is so much demonization of him on the part of the far right, I think he doesn’t want to ratchet up the rhetoric. Most of us were really naive in not foreseeing how much opposition he would generate just being who he is.

    It is true that the end result is that on issues like climate change, the public can’t tell or forgets who has held things back. He has to walk a fine line because unlike Bush, he can’t afford to just bull ahead and not care what the effect of his words is or how much animosity he stirs up. It is really regrettable, and the upshot is to really retard where we are. I still believe that more people don’t worry more about or act on the climate threat is because the gov’t and media aren ‘t telling them they should be worried. Instead they are told to worry about whether Social Security is going to be solvent in 2035, when life expectancy by that time is likely to be lower than it is now.

  3. eaarthman says:

    Obama is giving a peak oil speech. Begs the question: “can you talk about peak oil without saying ‘peak oil’?”

    That’s why he segues from climate change to the need to drill for more fossil fuels. He considers peak oil & the economy to be the more pressing need. He either needs to get better science advisors or he needs to get the little devils like Axelrod away from his ear.

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    Here’s my summary of the speech in many fewer words….

    1) Importing oil is causing us lots of problems – both financial and security problems. We would be better off using in-country oil to offset imported oil. But that is not a long term solution.

    2) The long term solution, the real solution is to switch to renewable energy for transportation.

    Now, how many think our energy problems will be fixed by speeches or blogging?

    Raise your hands.

    And how many think our energy problems will be fixed by actions such as increasing CAFE standards and funding renewable technology?

    Let’s see those hands.

  5. Kasra says:

    Interesting post — really gives some insight into the rather opaque thought process of our president.

    But, from what I remember of the speech, every time he would awkwardly jump off the teleprompter it seemed that he was maybe doing so out of frustration, like he was tired of the same old rap. Would that be too much to hope for? A president who’s frustrated with his own messaging structure? And the fact that when he did so he actually dropped the words climate change, perhaps that means he’s getting tired of avoiding what he knows in his heart to be a very urgent topic? Am I reaching a little too far?

    It seemed like there was some internal conflict, maybe a clash between charismatic, idealist Obama (candidate) and practical, politician Obama (president). Maybe he’s getting tired of being muzzled by his key counselors when it comes to sensitive topics. Maybe he wants to inspire people again. There’s an election around the corner, after all.

  6. Wit's End says:

    eaarthman #3 said “He considers peak oil & the economy to be the more pressing need.”

    I agree. The emphasis should be on drastic conservation of energy, while switching as fast as possible to clean electricity generation from solar and wind, and electric-fueled transportation (and bicycles). Anyone who would push biofuels without first finding out what effects their emissions have on the environment is risking health and our source of food in light of this new assessment:

    http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/study-raises-new-questions-about-biofuels/

    The increasing use of biofuels has come under close scrutiny in recent years from researchers who say these alternatives don’t provide the environmental benefits of displacing fossil fuel use, thereby reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).

    Now scientists are raising another concern about the surge in biofuel consumption, this time centering on how each type of biofuel — from liquid ethanol to solid biomass — breaks down while burning.

    Biofuel combustion processes are not well understood, and researchers are trying to determine how toxins released during combustion compare to those coming from fossil fuel burning. In the May 10 issue of the German journal Angewandte Chemie, chemists from Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Labs in Livermore, CA, along with German and Chinese collaborators, summarize a series of recent studies examining what exactly is coming out a biofuel tailpipe. They found that while biofuel combustion produces many of the same chemicals released during fossil fuel burning, it also generates a complicated mixture of additional chemicals that are potentially harmful to humans and the environment.

    On the other hand, the presence of oxygen in ethanol opens a pathway for a myriad other combustion products, including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. If inhaled in small quantities, these chemicals can irritate the eyes and lungs, whereas more significant exposure to these and other particulates is associated with asthma, allergies and even some cancers.

    In the case of heavier biodiesel made from vegetable and soybean oils, the higher oxygen content and residual nitrogen from fertilizers further increases the complexity of combustion products. The study notes that burning biodiesel produces less of the noxious particulates associated with fossil fuels, but any advantage is lost because it also generates a mix of other toxins that don’t form from burning pure petroleum.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    Obama, along with politicians in both parties, is now all over natural gas as an energy source. At 50% of coal’s CO2 emissions, this is hardly the direction we need to take. Either you get off fossil fuels and corporate-approved solutions like nuclear and biomass or you don’t.

    We could be close to 100% wind, solar,and geothermal in 10 years if we really wanted to, and this would change the world. Obama barely brushed on truly clean energy- maybe it was a bone to the young, those worried about climate change (?)- but if the president doesn’t take serious steps, it won’t happen until it’s far too late.

    How about diverting some of the $54 billion in nuclear loan guarantees to solar and wind? They are both cheaper than nuclear, and can be deployed much faster. Did he not notice Fukushima, or allow it to alter his thinking? Or, scarily, was thinking not a factor in the decision to plow ahead with nukes? I know a few of Chu’s old hands at Lawrence who are now completely opposed to starting up nuclear power again.

    Moving aggressively to get off all fossil fuels are the only actions that will count. Everything else, including in this speech, is just talk. Sorry, Mr. President, switching cars from oil to power plant fueled natural gas is not going to save us, and the can you are kicking down the road is going to turn out to be full of high explosives.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Brazil – what other “biofuels” does Brazil use besides ethanol? Why is the US exporting ethanol to Brazil??? Why talk about “biofuel” that does not exist yet when we can’t even use what the government subsidizes now?

    I say bad example! Oh, and I love the mention of the ultra-deep oil find off the Brazilian coast and the offer to help…Please try not to drool Mr President.

    All that talk about the cost of gasoline and how we are going to reduce our imports BUT no talk about how that will have no real effect on the price at the pump.

    Yes he should talk about GM and Ford and how they are producing 40mpg cars even without new government standards.

    Why would I feel cynical or skeptical about anything you say? For more than 10 years now we have been told that global climate disruption must be addressed IMMEDIATELY! Chu and Holdren even maintained that position before they were selected for your administration.

    Now, as it turns out, many more issues actually need immediate attention but global climate disruption is not one of them unless we can solve that less than immediate problem by burning oil from Brazil and ethanol subsidized by our government.

    Why is it that Republicans are able to keep media attention on a lot of completely fabricated non-issues while Democrats can’t even address the most important human crisis of our times?

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    Yikes

    There are plausible and reasonable ways to interpret some of his comments and changes in ways that are very concerning, especially if you connect the dots to his actions and inactions and to what he says and doesn’t say in his other (and infrequent) speeches on the topic. Just a few thoughts …

    * The “for those of you who are interested in” comment (an addition) struck me as distancing himself from the concerns that he mentions in that passage. He could have said, “for all of us who are deeply interested in”, but he didn’t. To me, this seems to reflect a tendency to often distance himself from any one “side” or the other, trying to seem like someone who is above taking sides — or having stands.

    * As Joe noted, he dropped the phrase ‘I pledged’. That’s concerning. I’m not suggesting that this means that he’s dropped back from the pledge, or even that he thought at all about whether to keep or drop that word. Instead, it all gives me the sense that he is (consciously or unconsciously) shy about his commitments, would rather not remind people of them, and would rather not even remind himself of them. He’s perhaps more comfortable with having rhetorical and political breathing room to NOT live up to his commitments if to do so would require him to make tough choices and show some verve. Hence, let’s just pass over that word ‘pledged’, please. It’s a hard word.

    * Although I think it’s honest and good, of course, for the President to remind college students of their responsibilities to help protect the climate for their own future — and that their actions will matter and will be necessary — it strikes me as odd and awkward that he must do so within the context that he, as President, is dropping the ball on his own responsibilities having to do with these problems. He’s gently and diplomatically telling the students, ‘don’t forget your responsibilities’, but he’s not really living up to his own (sorry for bringing this word back) ‘PLEDGES’ and responsibilities on the matter.

    * Although his (sometimes) ability to empathize with the audience, and connect with it, and become more personal, is a great one, his tendency to do so does not mean that he will take action to that degree on the policy front. In other words, given his political and speechmaking talents, and given (if this is correct) his natural tendency to empathize with audiences and refine speeches in the moment of delivery, he may (I’m not sure) adjust his points to demonstrate more empathy with nearly any and all audiences — the Chamber of Commerce, oil company execs, and so forth. When some tough decisions have to be made, and not everyone can “get his way”, having empathy with everyone, on every issue, is not much different from having no guts or no willingness to be decisive and stand for something. Again, these days, you can’t please all the people all the time, and taking stands will be necessary. Having empathy with the young is a good and necessary thing, if he ACTS on it and doesn’t just “demonstrate” it via personal comments in his speeches. Yet — and here’s my point — merely seeing him show more empathy by personalizing his comments to this young audience shouldn’t be confused with concluding that “he gets it”. It’s quite possible that he’ll be talking to some oil execs or natural gas execs in a month and, perhaps, make enough impromptu personalized comments and jokes that some of them will think that he “understands” them and “gets it” from their standpoints. Displaying empathy (or charm, or whatever) towards someone, in a speech, is not the same as demonstrating real empathy via the hard-to-do actions, nor is it the same even as agreeing with them. I’ve known some effective execs who display a great deal of “empathy” before summarily firing people without notice or cause. Taking actions based on empathy is harder than connecting with audiences in speeches.

    So I’m still a bit concerned and confused about what President Obama really feels, and thinks, and (most of all) what he will really do, and how hard he will push.

    Cheers for now,

    Jeff

  10. Michael Tucker says:

    Brazil – what other “biofuels” does Brazil use besides ethanol? Why is the US exporting ethanol to Brazil??? Why talk about “biofuel” that does not exist yet when we can’t even use what the government subsidizes now?

    I say bad example! Oh, and I love the mention of the ultra-deep oil find off the Brazilian coast and the offer to help…Please try not to drool Mr President.

    All that talk about the cost of gasoline and how we are going to reduce our imports BUT no talk about how that will have no real effect on the price at the pump.

    Yes he should talk about GM and Ford and how they are producing 40mpg cars even without new government standards.

    Why would I feel cynical or skeptical about anything you say? For more than 10 years now we have been told that global climate disruption must be addressed IMMEDIATELY! Chu and Holdren even maintained that position before they were selected for your administration.

    Now, as it turns out, many more issues actually need immediate attention but global climate disruption is not one of them unless we can solve that less than immediate problem by burning oil from Brazil and ethanol subsidized by our government.

    Why is it that Republicans are able to keep media attention on a lot of completely fabricated non-issues while Democrats can’t even address the most important human crisis of our times?

  11. Lou Grinzo says:

    Wit’s End: Oh, he knows all about biofuels, I’m sure. What he says about them is for consumption by the masses, not you and me and the rest of the assembled CPers who’ve done our homework. Biofuels sell very nicely to the masses. (For example, consider the massive amount of corn the US turns into fuel every year, and how there’s barely a whisper about this in the mainstream press.)

    Mike: And when used for transportation, NG reduces CO2 emissions by only 20 to 25%. Yet the vast majority of mainstreamers think of it as a “clean” wonderfuel. If I see one more article about how “Corporation XYZ is now adding another 100 CNG vehicles to their fleet, which will save Q tons of CO2!!!” (without ever mentioning the paltry percentage savings) I swear I’m going to start slapping journalists with the salmon of enlightenment.

    In general, I think it’s a mistake to leap to conclusions about whether PO is worse than CC. If we fall off the end of the worldwide production plateau we’re on it could send prices skyrocketing and put economic pressure on everything that’s not absolutely essential in the short term (like tax breaks for oil companies) on the chopping block, making decarbonizing our economy vastly more difficult. But if we dramatically reduce imported oil use, or even all oil use, and keep burning massive amounts of coal, we’re consigning future generations to one heck of a bad outcome.

    Right about now would be a really peachy time for benevolent aliens to land and give us technology that replaces oil and sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere and permanently sequesters it at a cost of something like $1/ton. As soon as I post this I’m headed out into my back yard to paint a landing pad on the grass.

  12. Wit's End says:

    hey Lou. I think POTUS is saying that for big AG, not the masses. A lot of people who couldn’t care less about CC don’t like ethanol, because it is bad for their car engines and decreases MPG, thus costing more. It doesn’t take a PhD to figure that out.

    Good luck with the landing pad!

  13. Richard Brenne says:

    Lou (#11) – I think your Landing Pad for Benevolent Aliens (LPBA) has about the same likelihood of success as many other techno-fixes I hear.

  14. Sailesh Rao says:

    President Obama’s speechwriters need to watch and follow the recommendations in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4

  15. Mimikatz says:

    Lou: Unfortunately, some xenophobic nut would shoot the aliens before they gave us fusion or some other technology. We have become so fearful and paranoid that that avenue would no longer work, even if it were plausible.

  16. Richard Brenne says:

    Here’s an alternative speech for Obama to give to Georgetown students:

    “What will most of you never see in your lifetimes? My age.

    What is one word for your generation and all subsequent generations? Toast. Now, that is not quite accurate, because toast requires bread that requires wheat, and also energy for the toaster, and you won’t have either.

    And why not? Because every generation before and including yours is using all the energy they can possibly access in a kind of unrelenting and unrepentant energy orgy that can never and will never be repeated.

    We’re at the end of the cheap and abundant fossil fuel era that has been the lifeblood of our supposed greatness.

    In a word, we’re doomed. (There is quite a long and awkward pause. Axelrod looks down at the prepared speech and notices enough departures that he makes his own through spontaneous combustion.)

    But now for the first time I’m being honest, and unlike oil, gas and coal, honesty is a truly renewable resource. Without it, nothing is possible. With it and enough kindness, caring and wisdom, all things are possible.

    I’ve had it with our rampant materialism in all areas, including our worship of technology and the free market that got us into this mess. Thinking that technology and the free market alone will solve the problems that technology and the free market have created is like drinking to forget that you’re a drunk.

    Listen, I’m tired of lying. You can figure out how to respond to the fix we’re in, and fix is the right word because we’re all energy and consumption junkies.

    We can figure out how to respond together. I’m all ears. Me and Prince Charles. And Abraham Lincoln. Listen, I’ll come and talk to you more tomorrow. But for today, let’s start with honesty. There are immense problems with biofuels, especially that made from our primary energy ingredient, bullshit.

    God bless you, and God bless everyone everywhere, not just in the U.S. where I’m required by some bizarre unwritten law to end every speech by saying this. I really mean this. We’re going to need all the help from whatever higher power you believe in, including the incredible morality and caring of atheists. So my God includes a tent large enough to include everyone. Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. Right now I need a nap. And since the God Bless last line started with the Napper in Chief Reagan, I’m going to end every speech from now on with ‘Right now I need a nap’ instead.”

    (This was written by Richard Brenne and not actually delivered by Barack Obama as far as I know.)

  17. Joan Savage says:

    “Now, another substitute for oil that holds tremendous promise is renewable biofuels -– not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass and wood chips and biomass.”

    In that statement is a “house of cards” assumption about continuous crop production that has me a bit cautious.

    Monsanto has issued a warning to soy farmers about Sudden Death Syndrome, which is more prevalent in the kind of cool moist conditions that we have this spring.
    http://www.monsanto.com/productperformance/Pages/sudden-death-syndrome-in-soybeans.aspx

    The LA Times has investigated Sudden Death Syndrome and its possible relationship to either glyphosate pesticide or glyphosate-resistant GMO soy beans and corn. It’s not conclusive, but interesting.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/02/business/la-fi-gmo-mystery-20110402

    Round-up resistant corn, the workhorse of the ethanol fuel supply, is often the alternate crop in fields used for soy.

  18. Joan Savage says:

    I have to add that the Monsanto piece about SDS was posted in 2010, not afresh this spring, although it is still relevant and on their page.

  19. Joan Savage says:

    Gah. Must wrap up. Glyphosate is an herbicide, not a pesticide.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I see that the ‘Confidence Trickster-in-Chief’ has announced that he’s running for a new term. Time to take out the trash, dear comrades. If you want ‘four more years’ of pointless posturing, professional prevarication and proliferating problems permanently postponed, vote for Obama. If you want a quick descent into calamity lit only by the murky glow of approval emanating from Rupert Murdoch’s fundament, aka Fox News, then choose the siren charms of ‘Newt’ (it’s not short for Newton) Gingrich, my pick of the Repugnicans, if only for his ‘strength of character’. I’d love to see Palin, with her incisive intelligence and witty repartee and badinage get up, but I suspect that not even the US is ready for that, yet. Perhaps you could just stay home, and, like Epicurus, tend your own garden. That was once an option (until a Hun or some such fancied your radishes) but these days we are aware that the entire planet is our garden, so there’s no escaping our planetary responsibility. Why not conscript some notable, like Hansen, or E.O.Wilson, someone who knows the truth. My favourite prospects, if I had a vote in your elections, Groucho Marx, HL Mencken, or Mark Twain are all, regrettably, otherwise engaged.

  21. lizardo says:

    We all have our guilty pleasures (see top of Joe’s post). Though TV seems to offer fewer and fewer.This is somewhat interesting I agree though I tend to mostly agree with Jeff’s analysis at comment #9, because there are a lot of inconsistencies here that don’t bode well (even if Obama/admin could accomplish much before the end of 2012) given a GOP-controlled house.

    I am not so sure that the changes were literally made while he was giving the speech, some or even all could have been made between the time the speech was released and when it was given. There’s a certain time lapse there, which varies I guess. Some clearly look like edits, not ad libs. Except for

    (1) bit about Chu inventing/designing the cap which was probably on the fly for sure though, because when interviewed on NPR Chu sort of demurred about that, said he was part of the team, which could be modesty, whatever…

    (2) The little insertion about the electric car and the secret service

    Wonder if those students had seen “Gasland” and how they took his paeons to natural gas. (Oh what, T.Boone Pickens isn’t going to profit from gas also???) They didn’t seem all that excited about gas.

    Notable is he thinks that “two fifths of our electricity come from clean energy sources.” (Does that mean hydro, but also nuclear and natural gas? I only know the breakdown for my state.)

    Wow, he deleted “clean coal and nuclear power” when talking about a clean energy standard.. That’s really interesting. It’s clear that this administration is willing to have “clean coal”, nuclear, and natural gas in a clean energy standard, and to PR it as “renewable” but I guess he or someone figured the Georgetown kids were too smart to buy that. So when he goes on to talk about them it’s as if they on a parallel track to a clean energy standard, not inside it. Sneaky!!!

  22. Richard Brenne says:

    Mulga (#17) – I knew you were a Marxist, but imagined one of the other brothers like Karlo or the even less funny Zeppo. I always enjoy your posts immensely or rather a lot, in part because your vocabulary is about 300 times my own, or my own is about 300 words, I forget which.

    Like you I’m a huge fan of Hansen but I’m afraid he couldn’t get elected dog catcher and Wilson as well, though I’m afraid he couldn’t get elected ant catcher (though he was excellent at this in his day, but now the ants see him coming more predictably than my jokes, or about the same).

    By the way I used your brilliant “Monsatan” joke to Richard Jefferson, one of the biggest molecular biologists in genetically modified foods and failed to get a laugh from him, though his tail momentarily brushed both of his cloven hooves.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Richard #21, on reflection, my favourite Marxist is actually Harpo but knowing politics in this country, I’m afraid the best we could hope for is Chico. At least he would follow a good Daoist line, and leave politics alone and concentrate as Groucho said on being always ‘On a horse, a ‘phone or a broad’ all eminently harmless occupations with much to commend them.

  24. Mike Roddy says:

    Harpo gets my vote, as someone who can function on a lot of levels besides talking. In contrast to our president, who can talk but not much else.

    Kunstler on Obama’s speech:

    http://kunstler.com/blog/2011/04/blowing-green-smoke.html

  25. Richard Brenne says:

    Mulga (#22) – Yes, I heard (or read) Groucho speaking enviously of Chico’s adeptness (so adept even his wife forgave him daily – I’m not sure how this is done, at least the forgiveness part) at the latter, presumably unrelated to horses. I imitated Groucho at various high school assemblies and such, even getting pulled over by a less-than-amused traffic cop while dressed and made up like him, and finding the entire judicial system lacking appreciation for his humor (the judge said the last $100 of my fine was for being derivative).

    Sadly (my overpopulation expert friends say happily) in that latter area I never really came close to emulating Chico in high school or since, though I have a large collection of equally odd hats.

  26. FredoToo says:

    Great post. To go to your original question I think the fact that he added all the references to climate change, however lame they were, is hugely telling about the question of whether he really gets it.

    His advisors/speechwriters would have him say “climate change” zero times, and he said it three times… Let’s hope he keeps up that kind of “personalization” not only of rhetoric but of the basic message as he moves into campaign mode.

  27. Wit's End says:

    Uh, guys? Words fail me. Congratulations, I think you have inadvertently explained just about everything!

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Charming rogues like Chico simply get away with it. Like Reagan or Obama, up to a point. In Australia a time-honoured piece of local junk-food is known as a ‘Chico Roll’ (batter filled with the stuff that the pigs refuse to eat). How it came by its name I do not know, but I doubt that it was in homage to Chico’s gift for horizontal folk-dancing.

  29. Merrelyn Emery says:

    How luck am I that I came across CP? Not only do I learn heaps about CC, I also get fabulous interchanges between Mulga and Richard B. More please, ME

  30. Richard Brenne says:

    Deer Mulga (#22) – In Chico, California (north of Sacramento, south of Mount Lassen, which Chico did) there is Chico State University that has as its mascot the Chico Roll, oddly just the food you’re speaking of that merely stands on the sidelines at football games and only strikes fear in the hearts of opponents worried about cholesterol.

    As you and others here have had the misfortune of noticing, I have a theory about everything (conveniently none can be proven or disproven) and my theory about comedians is that most were schlemiels (one who spills their soup onto another) or schlimazels (one who has the soup spilled onto them) in high school, and so they remain in a kind of arrested adolescence throughout their lives, and the funnier they are the later the decade into which they’ll still date teenagers.

    I am not a true comedian or anything else and my dating teenagers would have been limited to the decade during which I was a teenager if such a thing were to have occurred.

    Jerry Seinfeld was funny enough to date teenagers into his 40s, Bill Mahar funnier still continues to date teenagers into his 50s (I know this because we’re the same age), and (at one time) much funnier still Woody Allen dated his quasi-adopted daughter when he was well into his 60s.

    Allen said “The heart wants what it wants,” missing the actual organ in question by a foot or so (and no, not the foot). CNN reported two weeks ago that Woody Allen’s girlfriend was rushed to the hospital to give birth to his next girlfriend.

    Then of course the funniest (and most caring, and greatest) comedian ever was for my money ($26 to take my wife and 92-year-old mother to Chaplin’s great movie “The Circus” in an odd date last Friday) Charlie Chaplin, who not only dated but married Oona O’Neil (Eugene O’Neil’s daughter) when she was 16 and he was in his 70s.

    Which I believe sets a CP record for off-topicness, unless Obama included most of this information in his speech.

    Your Evil, Underachieving American Twin (YEUAT), Richard

    PS: I’m also Merrelyn’s Underachieving Twin, making us at least triplets, and come to think of it Gail, Mike, Richard Pauli, Leif, Lou, Jeff, assorted Annes, Ed Hummel and now Gnobuddy – I’ve lost count but we’re at least octoplets, making Joe, I guess, our Octomom.

    PPS: I still think you’re Russell Brand. Yes? No?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Wind, heat pumps, solar, and conservation (city & family planning) are easily meeting the futures energy demands.

    Oil, Gas, Coal, Nuclear, & SprawL are unnecessary prescriptions for pain either by accident, natural disaster, WAR, climate change, market speculation, or peak supply.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Fracking, nuclear, and offshore oil – have huge risk and zero long-term potential.

  33. Leif says:

    MM and Richard: You guys are in rare form! You both brought tears of laughter to my eyes. Thank you…

    Two Palms up,

    Leif

  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Richard #30, your revelation concerning Chico rolls was truly disheartening. There I was, imagining that the monument to coronary artery disease and synaptic sludge syndrome was an Australian contribution to gastronomy.Brillat-Savarin’s dictum ‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are’ when applied to the Australian diet explains much of the last forty years of communal and political descent into mass imbecility. Now you tell me that the beloved Chico is just another wonder that we have the good old ‘US of A’ to blame for, like Rupert Murdoch. He’s your responsibilty these days-we deny all blame. It was some other country, possibly the UK, or maybe those pesky inter-galactic reptiles. If we could just, somehow, get a reliable core temperature,… but that’s a project I’ll leave to those with stronger stomachs.