“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment…. I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”
The good news: Barack Obama delivered a powerful State of the Union speech advocating an aggressive clean energy strategy (text here). And he acknowledged a fundamental truth: advances in clean energy “will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.” Research and development by itself is ineffectual — hence the need for the standard.
The bad news: The President could not bring himself to utter the words “climate change” or “global warming.” These omissions were depressingly predictable (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“) and thus, predictably, depressing to climate hawks.
The ‘ugly’ news: The phrase “clean energy” has been redefined.
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all….
Clean coal, of course, doesn’t exist, and it remains a big stretch to call nuclear ‘clean’, but at least this proposal moves the debate forward significantly. I don’t know whether a serious clean energy standard has a chance, but this appears to be the only plausible way forward in the climate/energy arena, given the death of a serious carbon price and GOP opposition to any funding increases for R&D or deployment.
Obama did defend environmental regulations:
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.
Obama picked up the metaphor Secretary of Energy Steven Chu used in November, when he explained how China’s bid for world leadership in clean energy should be our “Sputnik moment.”
Here are the extensive clean energy parts of the speech:
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.
Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”
That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, 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% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen…..
The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information – from high-speed rail to high-speed internet.
Our infrastructure used to be the best – but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”
We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.
Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.
We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway…..
Well, of course, we’re not going to do any of those things — thanks to Republicans [and the President is naive if he thinks high-speed rail could avoid security — it’d be a big terrorist target]. As Politico reported today:
House Republicans already have settled on their post-State of the Union message, blasting President Barack Obama’s call for more “investment” as nothing more than another government stimulus.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he is “hopeful that the president has listened to the American people” and won’t embrace a bunch of new government programs that drive the deficit up.
“I’m hopeful that the word investment really isn’t more stimulus spending and a bigger government here in Washington,” Boehner said. “So, I’m looking forward to hearing what the president has to say tonight.”