By Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address last night, and energy issues played a starring role in the speech.
Here are some of the comments that caught my attention:
The President drew some firm lines in the sand.
The address was a strong defense of the importance of clean energy to America’s long-term economic prosperity. The President said:
“I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy."
In the speech, the President called for Congress to pass a clean energy standard and extend clean energy tax credits, while ending a century of tax subsidies for oil companies.
The President again rejected the false choice between a clean environment and jobs.
“We don't have to choose between the environment and our economy."
His description of the remarkable comeback of American vehicle manufacturers, which are rapidly innovating to meet aggressive fuel economy standards, proved his point.
A mixed bag on natural gas.
On natural gas, the President committed to full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.
But — he missed an opportunity to lay out the bargain that must be struck.
We can help revolutionize America’s energy picture with our newly abundant supplies of gas, but to do so responsibly, we must get the environmental rules right to protect our air, land and water wherever "fracking" wells are drilled.
Getting the environmental rules right means disclosure of the chemicals used in drilling. It also means reasonable standards to ensure high-integrity well design, safe water and chemical management, and methane gas containment to prevent additional harm to our climate.
With those kinds of safeguards in place, gas can reduce our environmental problems instead of increasing them.
The blueprint for action already exists in the recommendations of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board. They must be swiftly implemented.
Standing by new mercury standards
The President ended 2011 with historic action to reduce mercury in our air, water, and food.
As you probably remember, EDF was a strong advocate for those groundbreaking new standards.
Last night, the President stood by his action, declaring:
"I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean."
Last night’s speech wasn’t the only time President Obama has talked about a clean energy future recently.
Earlier this month, he spoke to EPA staff and told them:
"We don't have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment, and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America.
He's right about that, but make no mistake – in the weeks and months ahead, there will still be efforts in Washington to block efforts to change the environmentally-destructive and irresponsible course on which the nation, and the world, are bound.
We at EDF will continue working to remind our lawmakers, and all Americans, that the science of climate change is clear and so are the economics.
The fact is that we can build a more sustainable future using market-based approaches that preserve public health and the environment while creating new businesses and new jobs for American workers.
This content is cross-posted on EDF's Climate 411 blog.