Barack Obama promised to pursue every avenue to shift America from petroleum- and coal-based energy production during the presidential campaign — and apparently Ken Salazar was foolish enough to believe him. Weeks after Interior hailed wave technology as a promising new front for green electricity, Obama has cut back on the funding Congress authorized to research it:
The Obama administration has proposed a 25 percent cut in the research and development budget for one of the most promising renewable energy sources in the Northwest — wave and tidal power.
At the same time the White House sought an 82 percent increase in solar power research funding, a 36 percent increase in wind power funding and a 14 percent increase in geothermal funding, it sought to cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million.
The decision to cut funding for tidal and wave power came only weeks after the Interior Department suggested that wave power could emerge as the leading offshore energy source in the Northwest and at a time when efforts to develop tidal power in Puget Sound are attracting national and international attention.
By some estimates, wave and tidal power could eventually meet 10 percent of the nation’s electricity demand, about the same as hydropower currently delivers. Some experts have estimated that if only 0.2 percent of energy in ocean waves could be harnessed, the power produced would be enough to supply the entire world.
This isn’t the first time in this administration that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. The most embarrassing example was the AIG bonus outrage, which Obama used to inflame public opinion as some sort of big surprise when Tim Geithner knew about it at least two weeks and possibly several months in advance. More recently, the administration’s senior members have had a problem keeping their assessments of the threat from North Korea consistent, ranging from “global threat” (Obama) to no imminent threat at all (National Security Adviser James Jones).
This looks particularly embarrassing, especially since it takes place on Obama’s policy turf. Interior just got done promoting this technology as Congress appropriated the funds for its research. Now Obama has essentially reversed Salazar, which prompts the question of whether Obama actually consults with his Cabinet, or merely uses them for window dressing. So far, their performance makes it look more like the latter rather than the former.
Why is Obama picking winners and losers in the green spectrum anyway? After Interior’s assessment of wave technology’s potential, it doesn’t look like the administration had any scientific reason to make the cuts while increasing solar and wind funding. Could it be that the solar and wind lobbies have more of an influence than the White House wants to admit? When politicians pick winners and losers, the best way to figure out the decision is to follow the money.