Double Renewable Energy? — Obama Overstates America’s Use of Renewables

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President Barack Obama exaggerated his administration’s track record on renewable energy during the 2012 campaign season. Obama claimed that the United States has doubled their use of renewable energy since he took office. He referred to the errant energy statistic in a rally at St. Petersburg College in Florida on September 9, 2012. Researchers have subsequently challenged the President’s use of the word ‘doubled’. In fact, statistics show that renewable energy consumption has only gone up by 25% from 2008-2011.

According to the Monthly Energy Review published by the Energy Information Administration in March 2012, from 2008 to 2011 the production of renewable energy increased 27.1 percent. The exact figures were 7205 to 9159 trillion British thermal units (Btu). Meanwhile, consumption increased 25.9 percent from 7190 to 9059 trillion Btu. Therefore, no evidence shows a two hundred percent increase in either the production or consumption side. Obama’s overstatement on the consumption and production of renewable energy provides an overly optimistic future.

A presidential spokeswoman tried to vindicate the President’s statements by stating that President Obama made the statements based on the following evidence: “net electricity generation from wind, which more than doubled between 2008 and 2011,” and “net electricity generation from solar has more than doubled over the same period.” If the data of wind and solar energy are the only two types considered in the umbrella of viable renewable energy, Obama’s statements are accurate. However, wind and solar energy are only a small part of what constitutes renewable energy. Moreover, since the ratios of the consumption and production of wind and solar energy to the total renewable energy consumption and production are quite small, we usually do not treat them as dominant factors in renewable energy. Therefore, the doubled totals for wind and solar energy has no significant impact on renewable energy as a whole.

Because wind and solar energy generally exist in small population areas, it is not expected that the increased data will affect the energy habits of Americans. The ambitiousness of implementing wind and solar energy is also something to consider. Energy expert Frank V. Maisano states that “Making large increases in wind power or solar power is not as big a challenge.” So, major strides in other areas of renewable energy are both more pressing yet arduous tasks.

Altogether, it can be said that President Obama misled the public when he stated that renewable energy has been effectively doubled since the beginning of his first term. Solar and wind power consumption and production have indeed doubled, but these forms of energy are marginal in the greater renewable energy picture. Based upon current evidence, we have not doubled our use of renewable energy, in fact we’re far away from reaching that point.

Source: “Renewable Energy ‘Doubled’?” Lori Robertson,, Sept.14, 2012.

“Obama overstates on use of renewable energy.” Louis Jacobson,, Sept.11, 2012.

Student Researcher: Parker Schwartz & Weiqing Zhang

Faculty Instructor: Prof. Kevin Howley

Evaluator: Prof. Jim Mills, Geoscience Department

DePauw University