Published January 25, 2011
In his second State of the Union address tonight, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his belief that America's economic future is inextricably linked to innovation and clean energy.
Obama Outlines Plan for Clean-Energy Future
Obama said it is time for America to reinvent itself, starting with its national energy policy. He challenged Congress--Republicans and Democrats alike--to join him in setting and working toward a 25-year goal to derive 80 percent of America's electricity from clean-energy sources by 2035.
Obama reminded Congress and the nation that government has long been an active economic partner of American industry, often providing the funding scientists and inventors need to conduct the basic research that leads to breakthrough innovations such as the Internet and computer chips, which in turn create millions of new jobs.
"What America does better than anyone is spark the creativity and imagination of our people," Obama said. "In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make a living."
Obama Asks Congress to End Subsidies for Oil Companies
To help pay for the clean-energy investments that will lead to the innovations needed to create a brighter economic and environmental future for America, the president tonight asked Congress to eliminate the billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed subsidies the government pays to oil companies every year.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own," Obama said in reference to oil companies. "So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's."
Obama Continues to Support Clean Coal and Nuclear Power
Environmentalists will appreciate Obama's commitment to create a clean-energy economy and his pledge to enforce regulations that will ensure clean air and water, food safety and public health. On the other hand, they are sure to be disappointed by his insistence on continuing to include clean coal and nuclear power as part of America's clean-energy portfolio--as he did in his first State of the Union address in 2010.
The following excerpt from Obama's State of the Union address lays out his plan for revitalizing the U.S. economy through investments 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."
During his speech tonight, President Obama said:
”The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.
”None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn't know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do - what America does better than anyone - is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make a living.
”Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what planted the seeds for the Internet. That's what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.
”Just think of all the good jobs - from manufacturing to retail - that have come from those breakthroughs.
”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.”