Switch grass, sometimes called “tall panic grass,” is not often the subject of fervent policy debate. But the weed was thrust into the limelight this week when it gained Presidential mention in the State of the Union address along with wood chips and stalks, as pillars of hope for our energy future. Maybe so, but we already spend a lot of federal R&D money on ethanol, so it isn’t exactly clear that spending more is best use of taxpayers’ money.
A year ago, in his 2005 SOTU address, the President called upon Congress to pass comprehensive energy legislation. Congress did, and almost exactly six months ago, the President signed into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005. He said:
For more than a decade, America has gone without a national energy policy. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? We haven’t had a strategy in place. We’ve had some ideas, but we have not had a national energy policy. And as a result, our consumers are paying more for the price of their gasoline, electricity bills are going up. We had a massive blackout two summers ago. And because we didn’t have a national energy strategy over time, with each passing year we are more dependent on foreign sources of oil.
Six months ago we get the national energy strategy the President wanted — the product of years of Administration effort — and yet suddenly Tuesday night, all of that was forgotten and the President was off in a new direction, with a dreamy list of energy wishes that sound like they are straight out of the 1970s.
Is he lost in the tall panic grass, or is he smoking it?
Notes: The White House press release on the “Advanced Energy Initiative,” which provides a much expanded explanation of the effort, does mention last year’s Energy Policy Act in the last sentence.