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

January 25, 2012 12:37 AM

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.

Regarding climate change, Obama said, "The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change."

On some other issues, Obama addressed the following (also based on distributed White House material after the State of the Union address):

-- Trade enforcement: Obama announced the creation of a new trade enforcement unit that will bring together resources and investigators from across the federal government to go after unfair trade practices in countries around the world, including China.

• Enhancing trade inspections: The president called for enhancing trade inspections to stop counterfeit, pirated, or unsafe goods before they enter the United States.

• Putting American companies on an even footing: "When competitors like China offer unfair export financing to help their companies win business overseas, the United States will provide financing to put our companies on an even footing."

-- Immigration reform: "The President recognizes that our immigration system is broken, and is committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform to build a 21st century immigration system that meets our nation’s economic and security needs. The President’s vision for reform includes continuing to make border security a federal responsibility; holding accountable businesses that break the law by exploiting undocumented workers; making those living in the United States illegally take responsibility for their actions by passing a background check, paying fines, and getting right with the law before they can get on a path to legalization; and creating a legal immigration system that meets our diverse needs. We must also stop expelling talented young people, whether they were brought here by their parents as children or came from other countries to pursue college and advanced degrees."

-- Obama called on Congress to give "every responsible homeowner the opportunity to refinance": Obama announced that he will send Congress a plan that will allow responsible homeowners who are current on their payments to save $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at historically low interest rates. The president is proposing to use some of the administration’s proposed bank fees to cover the cost of the refinancing plan, "since financial institutions helped cause the housing crisis from which borrowers and the economy are still trying to recover."

Comments:  Some of the material in the State of Union (SOU) address was known -- like the export panel which came to light earlier this month. But several of the initiatives in the SOU message will require congressional approval and despite his plea for Congress to return to bipartisan ways in Washington, that seems unlikely as lawmakers -- the president included -- have their focus on the November elections.



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


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