Washington, D.C., January 27, 2010 — In his second State of the Union address, President Barack Obama talked government spending, health care — and of course jobs, jobs, jobs.
Almost every segment of Wednesday night’s speech tied back into the issue of unemployment, including what the president had to say about energy.
The president called for new government incentives for renewable and low- or no-emission power generation, while asking Congress to finish passing a “comprehensive” energy and climate change bill.
Obama said investments in nuclear power, renewable energy and clean coal technologies are all needed to help counter unemployment and build an economy that leads the world in clean energy products.
“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities — and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs,” Obama said.
Obama said clean energy jobs can form a new foundation for the American economy, and encouraged Congress and the American people not to delay, as other countries such as China and India are already making great strides.
“China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they’re not standing still ” They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America,” he said.
Outlining the need for American innovation, Obama said energy innovation is especially important.
“No area is more ripe for such innovation than energy,” he said. “You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy — in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”
Creating clean energy jobs requires more production and more incentives, he said.
“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,” he said.
Obama also called for the passage of a comprehensive energy and climate change bill that includes incentives to make renewable and low-emission energy more profitable.
“I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate,” he said.
Addressing climate change skeptics, Obama said boosting the clean energy economy would be the right move even if climate change were not a problem.
“Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future — because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy,” he said.
The Republican response to the State of the Union, delivered by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, also called for the nation to use all of its vast natural resources to become more energy independent and secure.
“Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell said the president’s policies are delaying offshore production of fossil fuels and hindering the development of more nuclear power plants. He also said the energy legislation being considered by Congress would hurt job growth with its cap-and-trade system.
The Nuclear Energy Institute’s President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel released a statement in support of the president’s references to nuclear energy.
“The recognition of nuclear energy as a vital component of a diversified energy strategy for our nation is well-warranted and greatly appreciated,” Fertel said. “Nuclear energy’s proven value as a reliable, clean-air energy source that creates good-paying jobs, fosters regional economic growth and improves air quality makes it a common-sense solution to our nation’s economic and environmental challenges.”
“The nuclear energy industry pledges to work with President Obama and Congress to enact policies that stimulate the expeditious development of clean-energy technologies, including new nuclear energy facilities, to help meet these challenges.”
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, echoed the president’s call for a climate change bill to pass through the Senate.
“All eyes remain tightly focused on the United States Senate. With millions of Americans still out of work, it’s time for the Senate to get serious about passing bipartisan, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation,” Pope said.
“In the year ahead, Congress faces a stark choice: build a clean energy economy that puts America back to work and makes us more secure, or bail out Big Oil and other polluters and maintain a dirty energy status quo that we can quite literally no longer afford,” he said.