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Obama Promotes Clean Energy and Clean Air in the State of the Union

Frances Beinecke

Posted January 26, 2011

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In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama presented a bold, confident plan for leading America into the future, and he placed clean energy solutions at its center. These technologies, he said, will help our nation “win the future.”

The president got it right: clean energy solutions will make our workers more competitive, our companies stronger, our country more secure, and all of us healthier.

He also got it right when he said that clear clean energy targets will help us realize those benefits:

“Clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”

I applaud the president’s ambitious goals in striving to boost clean energy generation in the United States. Many states have already achieved impressive gains with their own clean energy targets—targets that have attracted private investment and generated jobs. But the specifics are important. A true clean energy standard will foster more renewable electricity and energy efficiency and encourage us to leave behind old, dirty technologies we’ve propped up for too long already.

The president also stood up for the health of the American people over the special interests of big polluters who want to choke our air with endless clouds of life-threatening pollution. He underscored the role smart government protections play in keeping our families safe, and made clear his intention to enforce them:

“I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people.  That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws.”

Those lawmakers seeking to undermine the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce dangerous pollution should take note. Now is not the time for these big polluters and their allies in Congress to take the nation backward to darker, dirtier days. Now is the time to move ahead with cleaner energy solutions that protect our families and generate jobs for American workers.

Innovators are creating these solutions right now, but the government can help unleash their full potential. President Obama reminded us that from the transcontinental railroad to the Internet, government incentives and research funds have brought our nation tremendous benefits. The president pledged to spur our nation’s best minds to do the same with clean energy.

I welcome his funding plan for these investments: he called on Congress to eliminate $4 billion in taxpayer money that we currently hand over each year to oil companies and other fossil fuel producers. “Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s,” he urged.

Clean transportation solutions are a central part of that future, and the president called for expanding 21st century technologies such as linking our cities via high-speed rail, developing sustainable biofuels, and putting 1 million electric cars and other advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015. Each one of these efforts will generate jobs for American workers.

In the end, this is why the clean energy future can deliver what Americans are looking for. The same solutions that cut carbon pollution also create jobs, enhance national security, and sharpen our advantage in global markets. They also protect our children from respiratory illness and decrease our reliance on foreign oil. They provide a vision our divided nation can rally around.

President Obama recognized in his address that we may argue over mechanisms and policies, but the clean energy future is a common purpose that should unite us all.

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Mona ReeseJan 26 2011 02:34 PM

Nice post. I think the speech was very positive for renewable energy industry as a whole.

Things that stood out to me:
1. Funding investments in clean energy by eliminating subsidies of oil
2. Establishing a goal of 80% of electricity coming form clean energy by 2035
3. The vague mention of support for American safeguards which you and I both interpret as defending the EPA's authority

Barbara BankesJan 27 2011 04:40 PM

I am thrilled that the President is supporting clean energy. Nuclear power, however, is NOT clean. Wind farms, aside from being extremely ugly, have environmental downsides. Dams definitely have environmental downsides and won't last forever. One type of clean energy that was not mentioned, and rarely ever is, is human energy. It is time to use rakes and push mowers, shut off lights, walk to the store. Of course not all people are healthy, but many would be if they got more exercise. Electric cars won't use clean energy because the source of the energy will not be clean or environmentally neutral. How about households being charged for power usage based on number of residents and the base amount of power NEEDED based on a home that is efficient and has only a basic amount of space per person. Any usage of power above that could be charged a lot greater amount and for huge usage a huge charge per kw should be assessed. I missed the President's urging states and municipalities to pass laws limiting usage of wasteful electric power at business sites. Did he suggest rationing fuel for vehicles based on business use or personal ownership? I thought that he was actually quite vague. Of course everyone wants clean energy.

Katherine DanielsJan 28 2011 02:28 PM

The President also mentioned his support for research being done on H2 technology. That exicited me. In the long run, it seems to me to be a cleaner solution than electric cars. It might take a while, but could'nt we eventually replace existing gas stations with solar powered H2 refueling stations. I would be interested in the latest and best thinking on this subject.

Dusty RhoadesJan 30 2011 06:55 PM

The admiration you have for Obama is apparent.

Obama's "clean coal" [sic] and nuclear is not a step in a "green" direction - quite the opposite.

On the whole I am surprised anybody thinks we are going to get anything other than what we have been getting since 2000.

kevinFeb 3 2011 09:43 AM

What your premise is alluding to is energy conservation, and this is one of Obama's primary changes he has made for our economy. I imagine you have heard of ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act). A large portion of this 800 billion dollar project is focused on energy efficiency and energy conservation. My career has been in the energy conservation field for the past 25 years and I can say first hand that this is one of the best investments for our future of any of the proposals.

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