Barack Obama Panders

He’s got my vote. He doesn’t take money from oil companies, and is going to punish them for their “windfall profits.” For some reason, Oil Watchdog does show him as having taken $157,390 from oil companies, and I still haven’t heard anyone define “windfall profits.” Of course he does take money from ethanol companies, but that’s OK because this is our key to energy independence (cellulosic ethanol, according to Obama, is our best “short-term” solution).

The best I can hope for is that if he does win the presidency, Bill Richardson is his running mate. I think Richardson is the one of the most knowledgeable politicians around on energy issues.

I have to be honest. Of all the candidates, I thought Obama was a breath of fresh air. But the more I hear him talk about energy policy, the more concerned I become about our future. I don’t think there is any doubt that he will be bad news for oil companies. On the other hand, I can’t stand Hillary. At one point, I really respected McCain for speaking out on the ethanol fiasco. That was before he flipped. I also fear that McCain will keep us in Iraq forever.

Regardless of who wins, I think they are going to preside over one of the most difficult economic periods in American history.

33 thoughts on “Barack Obama Panders”

  1. Is Obama still backing CTL? If I had a vote he’d get mine, but someone needs to tell him that CTL is dangerous nonsense.

    Mind you, the doomer in me thinks CTL is inevitable, because as RR says, we won’t be willing to pay to fix climate change. If someone can make liquid fuel out of coal cheaper than other means, then to hell with the carbon emissions!

  2. Here’s how Obama claims he doesn’t take ‘oil money’ (from PACs) although he does from oil executives. It is the usual parsing you get from politicians. He doesn’t deny he’s gotten big $$ ($150k+) from ‘individuals’ in the oil industry. From yesterday’s Washington Post “. . But as Obama’s campaign was quick to note, he does not accept donations from corporate political action committees or lobbyists. The contributions flagged by Clinton’s side come from individual executives and employees in the oil industry.” Like Hillary and McCain, he’s a capital P Politician who is full of BS and pander and it’s clear he won’t provide any more insightful energy policies than his competitors or predecessors. What I love best about McCain is his ‘straight talk’ on energy, i.e., his 5 yr plan for energy independence! Give me a break.

  3. Robert, those of us who have been reading you for a while understand how windfall profits taxes can backfire and lead to more dependence on imported oil. But new readers who are just now coming to the issue because of the Obama ad might be confused by your casual dismissal. Could you link to a few of your major posts about windfall profits taxes?

    In the meantime, here is a Google search of R2 Blog and “windfall.”

  4. I’ve always admired your stuff. (And hear comes the but..)

    I can’t believe you would say he’s got your vote after this. This is typical political pandering of the worst kind, and it highlights that Obama, as well as he speaks and as glorious as he sounds, has little substance behind his words.

    Windfall = “an unexpected, unearned, or sudden gain or advantage”

    Windfall profits? WTF? You know this already – there is no windfall unless you define it only as unexpected. Unearned? How much does it cost to find a decent oil field these days? How much is it costing XOM to keep it’s production up? Are they at an advantage? Big oil is being squeezed around the globe. What about Google and Microsoft’s windfall profit margins, much higher than the average oil companies? Are we going to tax those as well?

    I just read his energy policy. Let me summarize:

    Obama’s gonna fix everything! Plug in hybrids, clean energy jobs, carbon emission reduction, cellulosic ethanol, pipe dreams, whee!


    You wanna seriously cut oil use? Tax it heavily like they do in Europe.

    Everything else is b.s.

    That said, they’re all morons on this issue, all 3 of them.

  5. “I can’t believe you would say he’s got your vote after this.”

    Methinks twas sarcasm.

  6. As stump speeches are a poor predictor of actual legislation once elected (for a variety of reasons to include voter pandering) I guess the real question we need to ask ourselves at the voting booth is which candidate will have the capacity to wade through the complex pile of misinformation surrounding any issue, and the ability to formulate and articulate a nuanced position to legislators and voters on both sides of the aisle. As such my vote, if I had one, would be for the smart guy who is known for actively seeking out opposing views. Come on, America… it’s worth a try isn’t it?

  7. ==Is Obama still backing CTL==

    Kinda, but not really.

    He supports it, if it can reduce emissions 10% below conventional diesel.

    Which it can’t.


    As far as Cellulosic Ethanol goes, we all here know it’s largely bull.

    Not because of the conversion process, but because of the feedstock limitations.


    Frankly though, way I look at it. Cellulosic Ethanol and CTL are one in the same.


    That said, you do have to cut Obama some slack on this.

    EVERY Candidate says that Cellulosic Ethanol, and theoretically carbon friendly CTL is the way forward.

    (And the whole rhetoric about “energy independance” and “fight the big oil companies”)


    Richardson, probably the main reason he’s so on the up and up is that New Mexico has a trifecta of some of the best solar, geothermal, and wind resources in the country.

    AND Tesla Motors is going to be building their WhiteStar electric car manufacturing plant in New Mexico.

    As such, Richardson also backs coal sequestration.


    That said, if you want a pander-free candidate, you aren’t going to get one.

  8. I like Obama, but frankly his policies freak me out, and I’m not alone. There are a series of articles in “The Economist” about he and Hillary’s NAFTA bashing non-sense, along with the term “Obamanomics.” His policies on trade are either dangerously naive, disingenuous pandering, or both. I think someone needs to set that man down in front of “The World is Flat” and have him reconsider his notions of free trade and the implications these days for trying a shot at protectionism.

    Frankly, aside from running him in a worldwide popularity contest, I can’t imagine why anyone would vote for him. Then again, that popularity would plummet a few months into his administration if he really started pulling the plug on free trade, and didn’t have US troops out of Iraq by the end of his first term (which he has no intention of doing–just “combat troops”–where I am from, they are ALL “combat troops” if you are being shot at).

  9. re: Powerpoint

    The way I see it, the market is a mechanism for finding the path of least resistance.

    Naively assuming that that path will be beneficial is similarly scary.

    Currently what the mantra of “Free markets” really means is:

    1. Deficit spending
    2. Devaluation of the dollar
    3. Gigantic trade deficit
    4. Coal


    A large part of this is due to the fact that China’s (and many other countries) are playing games with their currency.

    Hell, with China, you can’t even have a foreign business without a domestic partner company. And you balk at protectionism.


    Ironically, one of the arguments that we shouldn’t get involved putting a price on carbon, is that it would cause high carbon industries to leave the country.

    Well guess what, a carbon tariff would prevent that. (And be perfectly legal under the WTO, considering it treats domestic and foreign goods equally)

  10. As usual, I agree with RR on Obama. But, I would like it if any of the three candidates would discuss how to obtain greater economic growth and energy independence, rather than pander, pander, pander.
    We have the ability to become energy independent, through PHEVs, biofuels and shale oil. It is not a pipe dream, it is doable, and at less cost than this huge money toilet named Iraq.
    But Obama just talks about more and more social services and his race, Hillary about dodging sniper fire and her gender, and McCain about how to prevail in Iraq (meaning what? An Islamic state wear women wear tents? And that after a couple more trillion dollars we have spent?)
    It is awful! We have the means to greater prosperity, a cleaner environment and energy independence.
    I have wondered that the Bu$h jr. Administration has irreparably harmed the U.S., by running up huge debts, and accomplishing worse than nothing. What energy policy? What mass transit? Now, I worry the next Administration will be only slightly better.

  11. Heh, I could toss quite a few other things in there.

    For instance
    The Housing crisis.
    Palm Oil
    Cutting a highway straight through the Amazon rainforrest, all the way to the Pacific coast, to speed exports of wood, grazing cattle, and soybeans.

    What I find insane is that we assume that whatever the market yields is good.
    As if we have some sort of a “cult of the invisible hand”.

    And of yeah, by the way
    If you start by assuming “Everyone follows the rules”, thats your problem right there.
    “March 28, 2008:
    The Bush administration on Friday accused 62 trading partners including China and the European Union of erecting unfair trade barriers against American exports.”

    Heh, we could even then toss in the concept of subsidies as trade barriers. Or at very least ways of avoiding a more level market.

    Markets make wonderful servants, but they make horrible masters.
    (Especially when you begin to assume they are infaliable)

  12. Benny,
    “Energy Independence” itself is pandering.

    As is, it’s merely just an argument to give lavish subsidies to Coal, Nuclear, BioFuels, CTL, Tar Sands, and Sequestration.

    Or merely a thinly veiled, “We hate trading with Arab countries” slogan.


    The benchmark should be dealing with global warming.

    Or if we what to rhetoricalize it,
    “Climate Security”.

  13. It is hilarious how supposedly economically learned people are defending the oil companies here. As far as I know, there isn’t any other major commodity whose supply is controlled by a cartel. If OPEC was a domestic organization it would illegal. While our domestic oil companies don’t participate directly in the cartel, they do get the benefits of artificially high oil prices at the consumers expense. Thus, there is a windfall profit derived from the existence of an illegal cartel. Furthermore, oil has all sorts of horrible externalities associated with its use. It is the dirtiest fuel burned in densely populated areas. It also has required a massive expenditure of military buildup and action in the Middle East (remember, we started during Carter’s administration).

    Although it is clear that the policy paper on his site is there primarily so people can engage in the confirmation bias, I am in favor of our government intervening on our behalf in oil markets. I am also interested in what policy he would really put forward in office. I speculate that he would prioritize the carbon cap and trade legislation which would indirectly levy a tax on oil.

  14. Obviously all three candidates are merely “playing to the electorate”.

    No presidential candidate can hope to deliver on their promises. Track records of every candidate show it. If Congress is not on board, a candidate’s “promise” is going nowhere. And, the reverse is true.

    As far as the idea of “who do you want picking up the red phone”, no President operates in a vacuum. First thing they do is gather their advisors, and formulate policy.

    In my humble opinion, the best candidate (regardless of stump speeches) does two things:

    (1) Recognize when “this is now, that was when” and act accordingly. Half a century ago, the press hounded German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer about his “flip flopping” on an issue. How could he explain his hypocrisy!!?? “Gentlemen, ” he said to a press conference, ” I reserved the right to be smarter today than I was yesterday.”
    (2) A president must be adept at gathering opinions from experts with all points of view, know when to stop gathering opinions, what the scales tip to “Yea” or “Nay”, then go with it. That is all. The bow of the ship leads, cuts through the water, but it does not define the ship.

    Our current commander in chief seems to NOT be willing to gather all points of view, and, weighing the opinions??

    Cheney has HIS finger on the scales, and CHENEY is the one saying, “No more opinions”.

    This has served the nation very poorly

  15. “Energy Independence”?

    As defined by costing the nation MORE in total outlay for energy? How foolish.

    In the short run, the USA must examine WHY it hurts to import oil from Venezuela, Nigeria, Canada, and Mexico, but would be “independent” if suddenly a monster field were found in Alaska.

    It would be more realistic to talk about “Energy with Less Cost and Carbon” (?ELCC?).

    In 1906, the Wright Brothers were ridiculed for having claimed to have flown since 1903. The French led the way, saying, “Where are the big stories splashed in the newspapers??!” They sent an investigating delegation to Ohio, which gave a report supporting -every- flying claim by the Wright Brothers, but the report was dismissed!
    Who would have guessed, in 1906, that huge aircraft carriers would be plying the seas less than forty years later, tremendous in size, abilities of the aircraft, number of crew, etc.???
    That is where we stand with ocean wave energy conversion. The current crop of machines is like the Wright flyer, in performance and sophistication, compared to aircraft carriers and their aircraft, a mere forty years later.

    Ocean wave energy outperforms wind, coal, biofuel, and even coal-based electric generation, if sited in deep water and with sufficient size. But right now, it is about as “visible” in the public thinking as aircraft carriers in 1906.

  16. “The Marketplace” will not dictate the next generation of energy sourcing, any more than the railroads were built because the “marketplace” made it feasible.

    Only Congressional funding, and a ultra-generous “land grant” scheme, trading land for rail construction, made it happen.

    As EPRI made clear in its 2005 Governors White Paper on ocean wave energy, only with government funding will this technology get accelerated, because the scale to make it usable is too large for risk by private funding.

    Of course, billions were spent on packaged “no doc” loans, but….
    well, that product was “understood”. Actually creating jobs to build the ancillary “stuff” (e.g. remotely-operated ocean surface vehicles) takes too much imagination.

    And, imagination in the USA, 21st century??? It is all devoted to creating the next “Facebook” and reaping 100s of millions of $$$.

  17. That comparison is a complete fiction. Even on the Discovery Channel, they mentioned that Great Britain could supply all their energy requirements…


    with the wave energy contained in an area 18 miles by ten miles.

    EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) has done extensive work on this. They are being 100% ignored, just like the Wright Brothers.

    Ocean wave energy is 10x more dense than wind, and unlike solar, is available far far more often, on a 365-day a year basis.

  18. Britain is an island. It’s got a considerably higher ratio of coastline than other countries.


    Also given the “density” thing.
    I think you are talking about Marine Current Energy.

    Which also requires a big ocean current, plus undersea positions to put it.

    Something thats rather unique in the world. (But that Britain has got)

    The problem with those is maintenance is VERY difficult.

    And the salt water, barnacles, and constant pressure can provide a lot of wear and tear.


    Lastly, please don’t cite the discovery channel as an objective source of science.

    Their “Future Car” series almost made me puke.

    This is just one of their blatant mistakes on that program.

    If you want, I can dig up a quick paper I wrote on the 20 some issues they got so wrong.

  19. Greyfalcon,

    I don’t know what post you read when you supposedly responded to mine, but I didn’t say anything about market forces and all that FUD you posted about free trade. I simply pointed out that free trade is a fact and that there is no turning back from it without very severe consequences. As someone else pointed out, a substantial amount of our oil comes from Canada. Well, a vast amount of our economy is intertwined irrevocably with Canada’s in myriad dimensions.

    You blame free trade for the trade deficit…it’s hard to see why that would be the case. You and I chose to buy foreign products for some reason, including oil. Look at the history of the US and the disastrous consequences every time protectionism was implemented. The devaluation of the dollar is balancing that trade deficit as we speak, by making US manufactured products more competitive (there was a great article in the International Herald Tribune about Caterpillar’s booming exports, for example). The only reason the deficit did not close significantly in the last year was oil imports. For all the NAFTA bashing, unemployment in the US is very low.

    You bemoan China’s protectionism and their shenanigans, but the fact is that China will rise as an autarkic 19th century power, or as a 21st century integrated partner. Either way, China will rise. We can attract them into the globalized system of fair trade, or we can get into deleterious and dangerous zero-sum competition in which we both lose. WIth China owning 1/3 of our debt, they have a vested interest in seeing their investment prosper. Heck, they can’t sell products to destitute people. See the Council on Foreign Relations article on Sovereign Wealth funds. China will see the intrinsic advantages of partnership and their protectionism will wane in time. For now, they are very paranoid of being “colonized” again. It will pass.

    You lump “coal” in your list of bad things about free markets, yet nearly 100% of our coal is from domestic sources. Heck, we have 27% of the world’s known reserves! Protectionism would mean MORE coal, not less. Your comments about the WTO completely undermined the rest of your argument and supported mine. That is a perfect example of collective international trade cooperation, and part and parcel of what agreements such as NAFTA are all about. They set collective free trade regulation, not merely allow willy-nilly free-for-alls.

  20. Perhaps the issue where we disagree is that if you might look at Free Trade as merely “Lowering Trade Barriers”

    I could agree with that.

    The issue I take is that “Free Trade” has a much larger semantic meaning than that.

    As Nader put it, “Free Trade has push ahead the corporate globalization model that has caused the ‘race to the bottom’ in labor and environmental standards and promotes privatization and deregulation of key public services.”

    That is the real issue.

    And this is where Obama says that the system is broken, and needs to be changed.

  21. And,

    I’m not so certain what I said about a Carbon Tariff actually would be legal under the WTO (Much less NAFTA)

    Or that if it were, that it wouldn’t involve huge lawsuits paying for “damages” of enacting regulations.

  22. Grey Falco:

    The Maltese Falson would have been a better name.
    I do not think energy independence is unrealistic, or bad of the environment.
    PHEVs? Less pollution,. and we can ramp ups olar, geothermal, nukes, clean coal and wind to power them.
    Shale oil — we could pump 5 mbd, using Shell’s new technology. Gasoline from biomass could get us another several mbd. Voila! Energy independence, and a cleaner world.
    No, it is not perfect, going the PHEV route. But don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
    Unless you are living in a tent somewhere, and bicyling to generate the energy to post your comments, aren’t you being a little hypocritical?

  23. “Regardless of who wins, I think they are going to preside over one of the most difficult economic periods in American history.”

    And that’s the good part. The next decade could be one of the most turbulent the world has seen in a long time. There’re sporadic reports of riots and demonstrations over rising fuel and food costs already. A lot of governments are in a bind. They can’t afford the subsidies,and their citizens can’t afford food and fuel without them. China and India are two good examples. Try subsidizing the food and fuel of two billion people when oil hits $200….especially if those people are only making $10 or $20 a day.

  24. Hi Robert,

    In Arnhem now, eh?

    A lot of WWII history there, if you’re into that sort of thing.


    Hello Scott,

    Yes, I am into WWII history. I go by “the bridge” from A Bridge Too Far all the time. I saw a group of veterans there taking pictures of it yesterday. How are things with you? Things for me are very hectic with the new job. Far too much to do.

    Cheers, Robert

  25. For me the most painful part of the pandering is the way he spins things so that somehow the current mess is the fault of the people that work hard to supply us the energy we guzzle (oil companies and lobbyists earning windfall profits) and never our own fault for our over-consumption. IMO this is at the heart of most of our problems in the USA – the idea that whatever the problem is, it’s always someone else’s fault, and never our own responsibility to change.

  26. GreyFalcon, I agree the “futurecar” show was mediocre, to be kind. I mention “Discovery” only as a “taking the temperature” of public awareness, certainly not as a source for good science. It is TV, it is “entertainment”.

    I am not talking about “marine currents”, but the actual up-and-down motion of the waves. Check out the EMEC, in the Orkneys. They do both tidal and wave energy evaluations.

    For the in-depth evaluation, check out EPRI, the Western Governor’s White Paper on wave energy (2005).

    Again, I compare 2008 to 1908. In 1908, who was talking about where aircraft carriers would be in the fleets of the the great naval powers? How about Charles Parsons and his rejection of the steam turbine by the Royal Navy? No chance, until he sent his own boat, the “Turbinia” racing at 40 knots through the Jubilee celebration of the Fleet.

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