What is Bush Talking About?

President Bush made a well-publicized speech at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee on Feb. 20, in which he touted advanced technologies that will radically reshape the energy sector. “We’re on the edge of some amazing breakthroughs,” Bush claimed.

Bush Feb. 20 Speech

I guess the good news is that the President is increasing his efforts from the bully pulpit to be talking about the energy challenges we face. Nevertheless, I’m a bit perplexed.

In the speech, he talks about hybrids and plug-in hybrids, cellulosic ethanol, clean-coal, solar and wind energy, hydrogen and fuel cells, nuclear, and so on. As anyone working in advanced energy technologies for a while would know, there’s nothing really new here. All these technologies are theoretically viable, having been known about for years, and some work quite well today. However, it is simply that the economics for most of these don’t pass muster under current market and policy conditions.

If electricity were 50 cents/kwh and gasoline $10/gallon, many of these technologies would be rapidly penetrating the markets everywhere in the U.S. right now. But, I can’t imagine Bush is going to shift his stances and start proposing higher taxes on conventional energy sources to make the economics of these emerging energy technologies suddenly compelling.

Has he been informed about some technological, performance or cost breakthrough that’s just around the corner that I don’t know about? If not, then why he is so damned optimistic? And, will such boasting come back to haunt proponents of advanced energy as yet another case of overexuberant hype?

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