Climate, Clean Energy and the State of the Union

When I turned on the State of the Union speech last night, I planned to listen very closely so I could hear any mention of a climate and clean energy bill.

Turns out I didn’t have to work that hard. President Obama talked about clean energy — and its potential to create jobs — throughout the speech.

Here are some of the most relevant quotes:

We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow … There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture 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.

Germany’s not waiting.  India’s not waiting … They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.

We need to encourage American innovation … And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.  You can see the results of last year’s investment in clean energy – in the North Carolina company that will create 1200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  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.  And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.  This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.  I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But 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.  And America must be that nation.

The speech got a good reception from most environmental groups. EDF’s president, Fred Krupp, said this:

President Obama got it right when he said we must pass ‘a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.’ The American people want less imported oil, less pollution, and more jobs – and Congress can deliver all three by passing a real clean energy bill that puts a limit on carbon pollution.

If we’re serious about creating jobs, beating the Chinese and Europeans in this new global market, and cutting imported oil, then Congress needs to move forward without delay and pass strong clean energy legislation. A traditional bill that completely exempts big companies from any limits on carbon pollution is a non-starter; it simply will not solve our most pressing national challenges.

With all the divisions in Washington, this is an issue that should unite the two parties.  Both nominees in the last presidential election supported limits on carbon pollution, and legislators of both parties are now working to find a bipartisan solution. Americans want Congress find a way to cut imported oil, cut pollution, and create new jobs. Now it’s time to get the job done.

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