The energy portion of the State of the Union is online. As promised, no cap-and-trade.
As expected, it emphasizes ethanol. Within ten years, the President proposes to replace 15% of gasoline with alternative or renewable fuels, equivalent to 35 billion gallons of ethanol per year.
For comparison, ethanol producers cranked out about four and a half billion gallons of ethanol in 2006. Doing so is estimated to have consumed 20% of the corn crop. If we converted all the corn grown in the US into ethanol using current technology, we wouldn’t be able to meet the stated goal. And while cellulosic ethanol would change that equation, there are currently no commercial cellulosic ethanol plants, possibly none at all in the US. Google is full of articles about projects announced in late 2006 claiming to be the first such plant, but all will be under construction for a year or more. The idea that we could scale up a non-existent technology to have it dominate fuel production in ten years is extremely sketchy. It’s one thing to be optimistic, it’s another to be unrealistic.
Beyond that wild-eyed goal for ethanol, the plan is largely the status quo. He calls for a boost in CAFE standards, but not with any fixed numeric targets, just a Congressional authorization for a Secretary of Transportation to adjust the numbers periodically. That way Detroit doesn’t have to worry about fighting with all 535 members of congress to change the system, just one person who would almost certainly already have close ties to the Big Three.
And of course, drilling in ANWR is still on the table. Because all that’s holding us back from energy independence is a trickle of oil from an environmentally sensitive wildlife reserve.
There are vague references to Farm Bill proposals for energy grants, cellulosic factory loans, and energy efficiency, but only one passing reference to wind or solar power, and no serious action to control energy demand, not even in terms of tax incentives for energy efficient building construction.
In short, there is one proposal so radical as to be unachievable, and the rest of the energy proposals are business as usual.