As reported by Renewable Energy Magazine yesterday, expectations for a major breakthrough or revolution in US energy policy were low before Obama delivered his address before a joint session of Congress in the chambers of the US House of Representatives.
In all likelihood, last night’s address did little to reverse those opinions. “Clean energy” was mentioned a total of eight times by the president, and he did liken the move away from an overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels to the space race of the 1960s, calling the embrace of renewables “this generations Sputnik moment.”
But little indication was given regarding future amendments and changes to the US’s current energy policy or how the administration planned to pay for programs to further its objectives.
Indeed, President Obama’s promotion of the renewable came against the background of a proposed five-year freeze in domestic spending in the US, and when it came to renewables, much seemed still up for grabs in the president’s mind.
“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet [the 80 percent by 2035] goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen,” he said.
Still, the president did suggest that he sees the growth of the renewable energy sector as an economic imperative, reminding the Congress that, “clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling”.
Harkening back to the space race that began after the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik in October, 1957, the president said “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”.
“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,” Obama continued. “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.”
The president also pointed to instances in which renewable energy was already making a difference in the economy, albeit on a very local level.
“Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan (US) roofing company. After 11 September 2001, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard,” the President said.
“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,” he said.
President Obama also spoke of the California Institute of Technology, where researchers are developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars, and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where they are 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,” Obama said.
“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,” the president said.
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