How Immigration-Driven Population Growth Converted the Climate President into the Oil President
Hampshire College Professor Michael T. Klare
Michael T. Klare is a professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Dr. Klare is also a defense correspondent for The Nation magazine and a regular contributor to Mother Jones and other publications, as well as the author of important books on the nexus between natural resources, the environment and national security.
Among Klare’s insightful books are Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (2002), Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (2004) and The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources (2012).
Klare has just written an article for TomDispatch (reposted at Mother Jones) called “How Obama Became the Oil President.” In it he describes how the president who once decried oil and all fossil fuels as a source of climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions has proudly presided over an increase in domestic oil and natural gas production.
While President Obama once spoke of the necessity of eliminating our reliance on petroleum as a major source of energy, he now brags about rising U.S. oil output and touts his efforts to further boost production.
Indeed, a June 2014 White House fact sheet boasts that under Obama:
- U.S. crude oil production jumped from 5 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2008 to more than 7.4 million bpd in 2013.
- Natural gas production is up nearly 25 percent since 2008.
- The number of rigs drilling for oil and gas is up by more than 18 percent from when Obama took office in January 2009.
The “Driller in Chief” promotes oil drilling, which will increase climate-altering CO2 emissions.
The boom in petroleum activity and output – reversing a decades-long period of decline, prematurely deemed “terminal” by peak oil activists – is made possible by the revolution in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” for short). Viewed from a long-term perspective, this revolution is likely to be a transient phenomenon, but during the last 5-10 years it has indeed produced real economic benefits and a mix of real environmental costs and benefits for the country.
One environmental benefit is that low natural gas prices (from a glut of gas due to widespread fracking) have enabled utilities to substitute gas for coal to generate electricity, reducing America’s aggregate carbon emissions slightly – no mean feat.
However, two climate-related costs are methane leakage (methane is a far less abundant but far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) and interference with the expansion of more climate-friendly renewables like wind and solar, which are costlier than gas at the moment.
What Klare did not point out is another reason Obama now sings a different tune on domestic oil and gas production: he is hooked on high immigration levels and the perpetual population growth that results.
The tens of millions of additional Americans the immigration “reform” (more like travesty) Obama pushes will need more energy – lots more barrels and BTUs. Better to produce it domestically than import it from hostile or unreliable foreign producers.
Obama panders to Hispanic politicians (almost all fellow Democrats) on the amnesty issue and to billionaires and business elites on higher legal immigration levels.
Even without the higher immigration levels Obama advocates, the U.S. population is expected to grow from 320 million to 400 million or more by mid-century, an increase of 25 percent.
Population growth accounted for virtually all of the increase in U.S. CO2 emissions over the last three decades and will account for all of the upward pressure on these emissions in the future.
Because of increasing energy efficiency (such as higher-mileage vehicles and compact fluorescent light bulbs) and conservation, our per capita CO2 emissions will actually decline, so that only continued population growth will force aggregate national emissions upward.
As a result, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that aggregate national CO2 emissions will be about the same in 2040 as today. This is a far cry from the 80 percent or more reduction in these emissions climate scientists estimate is necessary to avert catastrophic global warming.
Make no mistake about it, contrary to sound ecological counsel, Obama is pushing aggressively for U.S. population growth as an end unto itself and as a means of pursuing the Holy Grail of perpetual GDP growth, the secular deity worshipped by economists and politicians everywhere.
A March 20, 2013, paper issued by the Obama White House on the “economics of immigration reform” insisted that, “with slowing population growth and aging of the workforce, America needs more workers.” Of course, when those workers age in due course, we will need still more imported workers, according to the deeply flawed logic of this immigration and population Ponzi scheme.
Obama deludes himself and tries to delude Americans that he can be both the oil president and the climate president. Mathematics and science prove otherwise.