Most State of the Union speeches are forgettable events, where presidents simply lay out their laundry list of desired policies within a highly unedifying cliche-to-substance ratio. But once in a while a State of the Union speech actually matters, and such is the case with President Biden’s address tomorrow night.
First, most SotU speeches run an hour or more. Can Biden actually make it that long?
But much more important is the substance of the speech. Most SotU addresses start taking shape in the fall, around Thanksgiving. I have previously speculated that the late date of Biden’s first SotU (they are usually in late January or early February, when the president submits his proposed budget to Congress) was set in hopes COVID would have receded sufficiently for Biden to declare an end to the crisis, and I think chances are this will happen. I wouldn’t have said this two weeks ago, but Biden desperately needs some good news to pass along amidst the Ukraine crisis and our inflation-wracked economy.
The White House is likely frantically re-writing the speech in light of the Ukraine crisis, and pondering how to exploit it for some marginal and symbolic steps to relieve the pain at the gas pump. Biden may endorse the proposal to suspend the federal tax on gasoline (18.3 cents a gallon) for the rest of the year, along with releasing more oil from our strategic petroleum reserve. Neither will have much impact on prices at the pump, unless states decide to suspend their gasoline levies, too. (The combined federal and state gas tax in California comes to 53 cents a gallon, which would be a noticeable difference if California followed the feds. Gov. Newsom is reportedly considering the idea.)
Of course what Biden ought to do is reverse his decision canceling the Keystone pipeline, as well as his opposition to a proposed Israeli natural gas pipeline to Europe. (Exactly how Biden has been able to block this pipeline is mysterious to me, but that’s what’s been reported.) And he ought to approve more oil and gas production in the U.S. But the climatistas won’t allow any of this, so don’t expect that from his SotU. And although Biden is unlikely to mention it in his speech, his craven crusade to revive the terrible Iran nuclear deal is based on the view that increased Iranian oil exports, partially restrained by current sanctions at the moment, will help lower oil prices on the world market.
Contrast this with the Germans, who have done one of the most rapid about-faces in modern times:
BERLIN, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Germany signalled a U-turn in key energy policies on Sunday, floating the possibility of extending the life-spans of coal and even nuclear plants to cut dependency on Russian gas, part of a broad political rethink following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Europe’s top economy has been under pressure from other Western nations to become less dependent on Russian gas, but its plans to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 and to shut its nuclear power plants by end-2022 have left it with few options.
In a landmark speech on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz spelled out a more radical path to ensure Germany will be able to meet rising energy supply and diversify away from Russian gas, which accounts for half of Germany’s energy needs.
“The events of the past few days have shown us that responsible, forward-looking energy policy is decisive not only for our economy and the environment. It is also decisive for our security,” Scholz told lawmakers in a special Bundestag session called to address the Ukraine crisis. “We must change course to overcome our dependence on imports from individual energy suppliers,” he said.
This will include building two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, one in Brunsbuettel and one in Wilhelmshaven, and raising its natural gas reserves. . .
Germany is also weighing whether to extend the life-span of its remaining nuclear power plants as a way to secure the country’s energy supply, the country’s economy minister Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens, said.
This is what a serious country does. When you’ve got the Green Party on board. . .
It took an invasion of a sovereign country nearby, threats of nuclear attack, images of civilians facing off against Russian tanks and a spate of shaming from allies for Germany to shake its decades-long faith in a military-averse foreign policy that was born of the crimes of the Third Reich.
But once Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to act, the country’s about-face was swift.
“Feb. 24, 2022, marks a historic turning point in the history of our continent,” Mr. Scholz said in an address to a special session of Parliament on Sunday, citing the date when President Vladimir V. Putin ordered Russian forces to launch an unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
He announced that Germany would increase its military spending to more than 2 percent of the country’s economic output, beginning immediately with a one-off 100 billion euros, or $113 billion, to invest in the country’s woefully underequipped armed forces.