Can Obama Move Beyond 'Drill, Baby Drill'?

Speaking in front of college students in Maryland on Thursday, President Barack Obama blasted the “drill baby, drill” calls that are starting to resurface across the country, especially in Republican circles.

Using simple arithmetic, the President debunked the idea that drilling for more oil will not only lower gas prices, but also solve the country’s energy quandary.

“There’s a problem with a strategy that only relies on drilling and that is, America uses more than 20 percent of the world’s oil. If we drilled every square inch of this country – so we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere – we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. Let’s say we miss something – maybe it’s 3 percent instead of 2. We’re using 20; we have 2. Now, you don’t need to be getting an excellent education at Prince George’s Community College to know that we’ve got a math problem here.”

Taking his political adversaries head on, Obama further explained that more drilling is occurring in America today than in the eight previous years. Certainly speaking to the conservative bent of the country, the President listed off a series of facts relating to his support of the world’s most powerful industry.

The most striking could be that the government has opened up millions of acres of land for oil and gas exploration, including massive swaths of oceanic territory. According to the President, more than 75% of the country’s offshore oil resources have been opened up.

“So don’t tell me that we’re not drilling. We’re drilling all over this country. If you start hearing this ‘drill, baby, drill; drill, drill, drill,’ just remember you have the facts – we’re doing that. Tell me something new.”

The ‘new’ story Obama is referring to is a transition away from oil dependency and into an era of new, homegrown, clean energy sources. Obama has made no secret of his affinity for clean energy and energy efficient technologies.

When he was elected three years ago, he came in with a plan to change America’s energy future by tackling climate change. After spending a large amount of his political clout reforming the country’s health care structure, Obama had little left to take on the increasingly religious battle climate change has become.

After losing the House to the GOP in 2010, the President had to further dilute his energy platform in order try and push this new era forward. And, after some notable failures of government backed renewable energy companies such as Solyndra and Beacon Power, conservatives took the President to task for wasting the public’s money in a time where many Americans are cash-strapped.

During this year’s State of the Union address, Obama showed his resolve around the new energy story, and unveiled his “all of the above” energy strategy. A key component of this plan is taking on “Big Oil.” With the oil industry positioned as one of the richest and most mature industry’s in the world, the President has called for an end to the $4 billion annual subsidies the sector receives from the American people. Displacing an industry so firmly entrenched in the American psyche is a herculean task.

And the battle lines have been drawn in this election year. Since January, Obama has been campaigning his new energy platform across the country, while Republican hopefuls have tied themselves to the fossil fuel industry.

On Thursday, Obama took the gloves off regarding the energy policies of his Republican counterparts. He compared them to narrow-minded naysayers that have threatened innovators and visionaries like Columbus, the Wright brothers, and Ford.

“Now, here’s the sad thing. Lately, we’ve heard a lot of professional politicians, a lot of the folks who are running for a certain office talking down new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. We’re trying to move towards the future; they want to be stuck in the past. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail – they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. “

The question as always is: does America have the courage to evolve and step into this new era of energy, economy, and growth.

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