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Obama Pushes Energy Production, Renewable Fuels in State of Union Address

January 25, 2012
By: Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer Washington Consultant

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Populist tone from a now-populist president

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

President Barack Obama stepped up his populist message during his State of the Union Address, but based on initial poll-based reaction, he scored on several fronts, despite sitting Republicans in the audience frustrated as they felt lectured to during the annual address to a joint session of Congress.

As expected, Obama touched on several energy-related issues, actually taking a few pages from the GOP game plan as the president called for increasing US energy production, noting that last year's production level was the highest in eight years and the pace of foreign oil imports the lowest in 16 years. Obama even stole the GOP's "all of the above" energy slogan. "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," Obama said to applause from Republicans in the House chamber.

Obama called for the opening of 75 percent of potential offshore resources and noted the economic potential from tapping into the nation's natural gas supplies, citing independent reports showing the industry could support about 600,000 jobs over the next decade. Obama said his administration would "take every possible action to safely develop this energy," adding that he would require all companies drilling on public lands to disclose the chemicals used in their drilling operations.

Regarding renewable fuels, Obama repeated his call for spurring renewable energy industries through tax breaks that expired at the end of last year while coupling them with the repeal of similar incentives for the oil industry. "I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here," Obama said. "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 never has been more promising." "Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs," Obama said.

Obama said he would order the Defense Department to make a record purchase of one gigawatt of renewable energy. He also pledged to establish solar energy zones and wind energy areas on public lands for 10 gigawatts of utility-scale solar and wind projects, which would be enough to power 3 million homes by the end of the year. In addition, the President is directing the Department of Interior to permit 10 gigawatts of renewables projects by the end of the year, enough to power three million homes.

Obama called on Congress to position America to be the world’s leading manufacturer in high-tech batteriesand reiterated his call for action on clean energy tax credits and a national goal of moving toward clean sources of electricity by setting a standard for utility companies, so that by 2035, 80 percent of the nation’s electricity will come from clean sources, including renewable energy sources like wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, nuclear power, efficient natural gas, and clean coal.

Obama pushed for legislation establishing incentives for manufacturing industries to more easily upgrade equipment and eliminate energy waste, with White House aides estimating the plan would save $100 billion in energy bills over the next decade.

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