President Obama Is Rebuked By a Better Man

The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama is a nice guy but an incompetent president. I think this gives him too much credit. There is a reason why Obama is the most divisive president since the Civil War: he is, for a holder of that office, uniquely mean-spirited.

On Monday in Las Vegas, Obama launched a personal attack against those who disagree with his energy policies. He began by hailing the growth of solar and wind energy generation:

For all the promise of solar, it’s still a small share of our economy in energy mix — less than 1 percent. Wind makes up almost 5 percent. But here’s the thing: Solar made up almost one-third of all new generating capacity last year. Wind power made up another 20 percent. So we see the trend lines.

Obama failed to mention that solar and wind energy facilities are being developed not because they are efficient or cost-competitive, but because utilities are being required by law to generate energy from such sources. Consumers will pay more for electricity, and few of them will understand why. While nuclear energy actually makes sense, wind and solar are driven almost entirely by government favoritism.

Obama proceeded to invert that well-known truth:

But while change this fast presents new opportunities, it is invariably going to create resistance from some fossil fuel interests who want to protect the old, outdated status quo.

There is nothing “outdated” about the status quo, other than the old-fashioned cronyism that enriches “green” energy magnates. Fossil fuels are, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, the world’s most efficient means of generating energy.

But when you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding — that’s a problem.

This can only be intentional misrepresentation. Obama surely knows that Charles and David Koch are the most consistent of men. Far from having “pushed for new laws to prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding,” they have always sought a level playing field and open competition, free of government favoritism. Obama is no doubt aware that every year, the Kochs write a letter to every member of Congress, urging that corporate welfare in all forms be ended, and that all subsidies, including any that happen to benefit their businesses, be repealed.

Barack Obama and Harry Reid at the Cronyism Summit in Las Vegas

Barack Obama and Harry Reid at the Cronyism Summit in Las Vegas

That’s not the American way. That’s not progress. That’s not innovation. That’s rent seeking and trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future.

Obama is no better educated in economics than he is in history, so he may not know what rent seeking is. There are indeed rent seekers in the energy industry; they are people like Tom Steyer, the Democrats’ number one funder, who relies on Democrats in government to require consumers to pay extra to support his uneconomic solar ventures. That is rent seeking. Advocating for free markets is not.

[I]n this situation, they’re trying to undermine competition in the marketplace, and choke off consumer choice, and threaten an industry that’s churning out new jobs at a fast pace. (Applause.)

Again, this is nothing but slander–the opposite of the truth.

And that has the potential to hurt a lot of communities — and set back America’s leadership in fighting climate change. They’re even fighting to protect billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars in corporate welfare each year that’s going to fossil fuel companies.

An outright lie–the Koch brothers have tirelessly advocated for an end to all such subsidies. It should be noted, however, that the fossil fuel industry is an enormous net taxpayer, unlike the solar and wind industries. Any subsidies that fossil fuel producers receive are trivial compared with the enormous taxes they pay. Solar companies like Tom Steyer’s live on subsidies and mandates, and do nothing but suck at the public trough.

Charles Koch is probably the most successful businessman of his generation. He is described as a genius by those who work with him, and is a perfect gentleman. But Obama’s reckless assault on his reputation was too much: Charles Koch responded in an interview with Politico’s Mike Allen:

“It’s beneath the president, the dignity of the president, to be doing that,” Koch said during a phone interview Tuesday. …

Koch, who is chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, said his opposition to subsidies for clean energy companies — or any other private businesses — doesn’t mean he’s against their success. Rolling back corporate welfare is one of the top issues Koch is pursuing with his richly funded political network.

Koch said his company also opposes subsidies for fossil fuels. And he portrayed Obama’s remarks as an unwarranted personal attack.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted that he could say so many things about us that were the opposite of the truth,” Koch said. “I was really dumbfounded. And I know he was there with Harry Reid. So we expect that with Harry Reid, but I didn’t expect that from the president.” …

Koch said his company is “opposed to renewable energy subsidies of all kinds — as we are all subsidies, whether they benefit or help us.”

“We are not trying to prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding,” Koch continued. “Any business that’s economical, that can succeed in the marketplace, any form of energy, we’re all for. As a matter of fact, we’re investing in quite a number of them, ourselves — whether that’s ethanol, renewable fuel oil. … We’re investing a tremendous amount in research to make those more efficient and create higher-value products.”

Charles Koch

Charles Koch

Koch added: “But it’s not going to help the country to be subsidizing uneconomical forms of energy — whether you call them ‘green,’ ‘renewable’ or whatever. In that case, the cure is worse than the disease. And there is a big debate on whether you have a real disease or something that’s not that serious. I recognize there is a big debate about that. But whatever it is, the cure is to do things in the marketplace, and to let individuals and companies innovate, to come up with alternatives that will deal with whatever the problem may be in an economical way so we don’t squander resources on uneconomic approaches.” …

Koch shot back: “I don’t know whether he knows what that phrase means, but ‘rent seeking,’ of course, is, in economic terms, is getting the government to rig the system in your favor. And that’s exactly what these so-called ‘renewable energy’ proponents are doing.”

Charles Koch is far smarter than Barack Obama, and much more successful. More important, he is an infinitely better man. Obama should be ashamed of himself, but on that score he is downright Clintonian: shame, implying a conscience, is an emotion to which he is not subject.