President Barack Obama’s discussion of energy policy in his first State of the Union address pandered to corporate interests while demoralizing his progressive supporters. Though Obama made a strong case that real investments in clean energy such as solar technology, advanced batteries, high-speed rail and efficiency are critical to job creation and international competitiveness, he also offered sops to established corporate polluters. Republicans, who spent much of the address refusing to applaud Obama’s call for economic reforms, ecstatically applauded his praise of polluting industry. Embracing the language of the John McCain campaign, Obama described nuclear power, offshore oil and gas drilling, and coal as “clean energy jobs”:
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
Watch a compilation of Obama’s address and the Republican reaction:
Although Republicans lauded Obama’s praise of heavily subsidized, polluting industries, they scoffed at energy legislation that would address climate change. Unlike Rudy Giuliani, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), Mitt Romney, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Obama’s actual supporters were dismayed.
About 12,000 MoveOn members participated in a “live online dial-test of President Obama’s State of the Union speech.” While Obama’s mentions of clean energy innovation were some of his most popular moments, his paean to polluters was by far his worst moment with progressive activists:
Nukes, oil, and coal just aren’t clean. If Obama really is committed to “tough decisions,” he’ll take on the coal companies who are tearing up the Appalachian mountains, the nuclear companies who want taxpayers to take all the risk for accidents and waste, and the oil companies who are burning up the planet for their own profit. And that’s something the people who put him into office could support.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.