Barack Obama: energy policy assessment
Barack Obama has been the president of USA from 2008 until today. His energy policy has always tended towards building a green America, and it’s now time to make a political assessment.
Energy policy and production under Obama
During his mandate, President Obama wanted to act in favor of the environment and against climate change. It’s a well known fact that energy production is a large part of greenhouse gases emissions (which occur in almost one-third of cases of electricity production in the U.S.), especially from thermal power plants which use coal, crude oil, gas.
Obama managed to get a law passed which would impose a reduction of carbon pollution released from power-plants. The Clean Power Plan imposes a 32% reduction of CO² emissions levels observed in 2005 by 2030 for coal fired units. Coal is actually the dirtiest way to produce electricity, it rejects two time more CO² than gas for the same electricity production. The Clean Power Plan also includes renewable electricity standards, the aim being to produce 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. But Obama has to work with a Senate majority of pro-coal Republicans. On February 9th, 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan pending judicial review.
Despite this, some states had continue to implement a clean power plan. The amount of coal in the U.S. energy mix has consequently decreased. To offsets this dip in production, the US has promoted natural gas power plants which reject less CO² than coal.
In the field, primary renewable energy leaped from 6.53% in 2007 to 11.1% in 2014 thanks to tax credits and investments by public-private partnerships under Obama’s presidency. His administration recorded the highest increase for renewable energy in U.S. history, but it’s far from the 20% part that, circa 1978, President Carter wanted clean energy to hit by the year 2000 (because of coal and petrol friendly presidents : Ronald Reagan and George Bush).
The USA is the first producer and consumer of petrol and natural gas
The U.S. is the world’s first consumer of petrol and gas in the world; under president Obama, they also became the world’s first producer to reach petrol and gas independence. The reserves of conventional petroleum in the U.S. are low, but the U.S. extract unconventional petroleum and gas (oil and gas shale, oil sands) that solidifies it’s position , as the number one producer.
These fossil energies are heavy polluters, polluting the topsoil, subsoil and groundwater with chemicals used in the extraction process and are expensive to extract to boot. In addition, since the U.S. started massively extracting oil and shale gas, experts noticed an increase of greenhouse gases like methane and ethane in the European atmosphere, due to wells of shale gas and oil drilled in America.
From Barack to Donald
Barack Obama’s energy policy acts in favor of the environment as witnessed by the reduction in CO² emissions, the reduction of coal in the energy mix of the U.S., and the increase of renewable energy. But the 44th president of the USA has had to work with a Republican Congress that rejects some propositions on energy policy. Still, Obama acts in favor of the cleanest energy, advancing energy efficiency, and reducing pollution (investment of billions in carbon sequestration). Obama also signed and ratified the treaty of Paris in the context of the COP 21 to reduce greenhouse gases.
New president, new policy. Donald Trump was elected a few weeks back, having already announced that, within his first days in the White House, he wishes to lift environmental restrictions on energy put in place by Obama.