A significant section of President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night discussed energy issues. According to David Roberts of Grist, it's important to emphasize that the president "does not control domestic policy," that "this Congress has shown little appetite for doing, um, anything, [therefore] it’s highly unlikely that Obama’s proposals will become law," and that "in an election year, the SOTU shows which fights the administration feels comfortable fighting and thinks it can win."
Given all those caveats, this SOTU could have taken the easy way out, barely mentioned energy, let alone risen to a defense of clean energy. Surprisingly, though, as David Roberts points out, what President Obama ended up doing was actually a pleasant surprise: referencing fossil fuel policies "that are already in place," in order "to set Obama up for a strong defense of clean energy." Which is, at it turns out, exactly what happened:
That’s what I was watching for: whether the president would back down on clean energy in the face of coordinated GOP assault. (Solyndra is the battle flag of Republicans, but they’re going after clean energy on multiple fronts.)
He did not. Instead, he doubled down: “Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” The portion of the speech on clean energy policy was both longer and stronger than I expected. This is the killer bit:
"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."
Even better, as Roberts explains, this part of the speech was highly popular with focus groups, as, "no matter how much money the Chamber of Commerce spends on attack ads, Americans love clean energy." Given those warm feelings, the conclusion is that politicians certainly will not be harmed, and probably will be helped, by campaigning for wind, solar, geothermal, energy efficiency, etc. Let's hope they realize this as the 2012 election season proceeds, and that Americans vote for candidates who pledge not to "walk away from the promise of clean energy!"