Stepping up to the microphone yesterday, President Obama said exactly what each of his predecessors since Richard Nixon has stated before him -- it is time for the United States to achieve energy independence.

Therefore, the President and his Administration have developed a comprehensive energy plan, Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future [pdf], which they believe will lead America away from foreign oil and toward domestic energy sources.

In his speech, President Obama spent substantial time speaking about developing the country's domestic oil and gas supply.  He noted that last year the country produced more oil last year than it has in the past seven years.  He expects this production to increase as more permits given for offshore and onshore drilling.  Holding only two percent of the world's oil supplies, drilling for crude is not the long-term answer for America's energy issue.

There are multiple sources waiting in the wings, and the President acknowledged each of them, although he placed particular emphasis on one:  "The first is natural gas. Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves -- perhaps a century's worth -- in the shale under our feet.  The potential here is enormous." 

Like oil and coal, natural gas production poses significant health and safety risks, which the President says his Energy Secretary is working diligently to mitigate.  President Obama has also put his support behind a bill, currently in Congress, which creates incentives to use natural gas in vehicles instead of oil.

Clean energy technologies are part of the President's energy vision as well, although their influence appears to be locked into the longer-term plan.  Advanced biofuels are being developed to be used in every facet of American transportation. 

This pledge was welcomed by the Algal Biomass Organization, the trade association for the U.S. algae industry.  Mary Rosenthal, the organization's Executive Director, says her industry is well-positioned to produce America's long-desired domestic fuel:  "Our members are creating sustainable, scalable and long-term supplies of oil for petroleum, ethanol, diesel and jet fuel.  The major difference is that our oil 'wells' are located aboveground, never need drilling and never run dry."

Congruently, incentives for the mass production of fuel-efficient electric and hybrid vehicles are being established.  Leading by example, the Administration has directed all federal agencies to purchase 100% electric, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles by 2015. 

The President's Blueprint outlines the the necessity of establishing policies which promote the development of clean energy technologies.  For example, the Administration has called for the creation of a Clean Energy standard which will set a target to generate 80% of the country's electricity from clean energy sources.  According to the President, the nation currently receives 40% of its electricity from clean sources (although he includes natural gas and nuclear energy in his assessment).

Oil and gas have been the energy superstars for more than a century.  They are slowly becoming energy fossils, however.  The President's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future recognizes this reality, but still places their development as top priorities.  The same ingenuity which the President is calling for from the American people, in order to make the country the leader of 21st Century economy, also needs to be found in his politics and plans.

Photo by riyono.