Addicted to our current energy policy

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Obama’s comments on energy during the State of the Union struck me as we wrap up our survey on oil this week.

You still have a few more days to tell us whether you think we are addicted to oil and if so, what we should do about.

When Dan Misleh (author of the piece) and I first discussed tackling this issue, we talked about addressing policy issues. It’s impossible to predict, however, when the government would finally take up energy policy and then what it will look like, Misleh advised. Talk of “clean energy” and “energy independence” is common, but it rarely adds up to action.

When Obama said that he wanted to cut subsidies to the oil industry and use the funds for clean energy, my first thought was that he’s used this line in State of the Union addresses before. Sure enough, according to this article, Obama’s 2011 proposed budget last year called for the end of $2.7 billion in subsidies to oil, coal, and gas industries. Another article documents the repeated failed attempts to cuts subsidies. 

For the environment, national security, justice for the poor, and the good of future generations, as Misleh points out, it is essential that we begin the transition to clean energy sources. Innovation, though, requires investment. “If the government doesn’t do it, it’s not going to happen,” a Ph.D. candidate researching solar energy told me during the State of the Union Tuesday.

While government spending and intervention is hugely unpopular in Washington these days, the energy industry is a clear example of how the market has never been completely “free.” Still, it will take massive demand to change the government’s approach to energy policy.

We’re nearly a year out from the beginning of the Gulf oil spill (which Obama didn’t mention—probably since he didn’t handle it terribly well). Could the spill be the difference maker this year?

Our survey mostly asks if you have made changes in your lifestyle to lessen your oil consumption, but would the spill also inspire you to demand new energy policies? Respond to the survey here.