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State of the Union 2012: Clean Energy and an Economy Built to Last

Obama Urges Congress to Help Him Rebuild the Economy, Develop Clean Energy


Published January 26, 2012

In his third State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama outlined his vision for "an economy built to last" and called on Congress to work with his administration to achieve it.

Obama Continues to Link Clean Energy and Economic Growth
Once again, as he did in 2011 and 2010, Obama identified clean energy as an essential component of America's economic recovery and future ambitions. During his speech, Obama outlined several clean-energy policies, proposals and predictions, including:

-- Developing a comprehensive "all of the above" energy strategy that would take advantage of "every available source of American energy"

-- Opening more than 75 percent of potential U.S. offshore oil and gas resources for exploration

-- Aggressively developing U.S. natural gas reserves, which could create more than 600,000 new jobs by the end of the decade

-- Ending taxpayer-financed subsidies for oil companies and invest more in renewable energy with clean-energy tax credits

-- Calling on Congress to set a U.S. clean-energy standard to spur innovation in the energy sector -- Directing his administration to allow clean-energy development on enough public land to power three million homes

-- Calling on Congress to create incentives for businesses to upgrade their buildings and eliminate energy waste, which could create jobs and save $100 billion in energy costs over 10 years

Obama Outlines Plan to Rebuild U.S. Economy
Obama also called for a return to core American values, regulatory changes to make it easier for small businesses and startups to get financing, and tax incentives to reward companies that either create and keep jobs on American soil or bring formerly exported jobs back home again. He spoke about the need to improve education by giving schools more money, keeping kids in school, and rewarding good teachers while replacing those who aren't up to the job. Obama also called for government investment in basic research to fuel innovation that can lead of new industries.

Concerning energy, the president said:

"Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right; eight years. Not only that; last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

"But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy, a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

"We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

"The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock," reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.

"What's true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world's leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

"When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it's hiring workers like Bryan, who said, 'I'm proud to be working in the industry of the future.'

"Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don't always come right away. Some technologies don't pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That's long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.

"We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there's no reason why Congress shouldn't at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven't acted. Well tonight, I will. I'm directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I'm proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history, with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.

"Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here's another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs."

Early in his speech, Obama recounted some of America's recent military successes, including the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan that left the terrorist leader dead and the Taliban broken. The president held up U.S. military personnel as an example for other Americans-and Congress in particular-to follow as they face the challenge of creating a new economy for a new century.

"These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

"Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded."

Final Thoughts
Obama paints a compelling picture of what America might become if her people could embrace common goals and work together to achieve them. But vision is easy; politics is hard.

With Congress deeply divided along political and ideological lines, and Republicans unwilling to do anything that voters might interpret as an Obama victory, which could strengthen his bid for a second term in November, there is little chance of making even a nominal start this year toward achieving any of the goals the president set forth in his State of the Union address last night.

For information about other Obama State of the Union addresses, see:

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