President Barack Obama looked to the future Tuesday night in his final State of the Union address, touching on issues ranging from health care and the economy to climate change, terrorism and military strength.
Obama touted the achievements of his seven years in office, and outlined how he thought his policies will help Americans for years to come.
The president delivered the nationally televised speech to a joint session of Congress as well as members of his Cabinet, U.S. Supreme Court justices, military officers and dozens of special guests.
Here, The Daily Signal provides more context for some of Obama’s claims.
Obama: “But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record–until 2015 turned out even hotter…”
The president is right when he says last year was the warmest year on record, but that data point doesn’t necessarily translate into increased global warming.
In making this claim, Obama was referring to a 2015 study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). But there are serious questions about the data driving that study and the conclusions drawn from it by politicians.
Some of the weather stations that collect those measures are located in industrial areas, surrounded by buildings, parking lots, and other structures that retain heat and skew the data.
For instance, the official weather station in Washington, D.C., is located at Reagan National Airport. As Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute explains, that station produces an inaccurate weather report because it measures increased heat produced by “several hundred feet lower in elevation … the brick buildings [nearby], and the pavement of urban Washington.”
Geography could also play a significant role in some NOAA’s dramatic numbers. The weather stations that provide the data for the report are not spread out.
“These stations are not distributed in a regular, comprehensive geological pattern” notes David Kreutzer, a senior fellow in energy economics at The Heritage Foundation. As a result, he concludes the data “doesn’t prove a climate crisis is evident.”
Obama: “In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal–in jobs that pay better than average. “
Wind power isn’t just cheaper than fossil fuels, as the president said. Often, as in Texas last March, wind-generated electricity is sold for negative prices. Slate reports that companies actually were paying Texas public utilities to take their excess electricity.
Among many factors artificially driving the price down was a generous federal production tax credit that pays producers 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour.
Nick Loris, an economist who is the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, explains that subsidies and regulation–like the Texas wind credit–govern and skew significant portions of the energy market.
And although, as the president says, the solar industry does employ more Americans than coal, Loris says, that’s because of an unfair playing field.
“Heavy-handed regulations,” he says, “are driving out coal as an important, reliable energy source and destroying jobs in the process.” Meanwhile, “solar benefits from generous taxpayer-funded subsidies.”
Loris notes further that increased oil drilling, not solar production, does more to push down electricity prices.
The Energy Information Administration reported that in 2015, “wholesale electricity prices at major trading hubs … were down 27 percent [to]37 percent across the nation” and that the price drop was “driven largely by lower natural gas prices.”