Obama: “It begins with energy.”
In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama delivered remarks with a forceful conviction that did wonders to dispel the ‘Barry the Bummer’ image the punditry has cast upon him recently.
Faced with the difficult task of portraying confidence in tough economic times, President Obama again made the case for why rebuilding America’s infrastructure is important and outlined three areas that are critical to the country’s economic future: energy, health care, and education. And “It begins with energy,” said Mr. Obama.
The energy plan President Obama outlined made the distinction that emphasis on cleaner energy production would not hinder the economy, but rather stimulate it. In regards to this country’s declining leadership in the renewable energy sector, Mr. Obama linked it to our general slide in manufacturing prowess. He said:
“We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.
Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.”
On transmission upgrades and energy efficiency, Obama had this to say:
“We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.”
And just a little over two years after President Bush first stumbled through the words “climate change” in a State of the Union address, President Obama said this to an enthusiastically supportive Congress:
“But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.”
Though I have some trouble aligning clean coal with wind, solar, advanced biofuels, and fuel efficiency, enough to string them all together in one sentence, some are more sanguine about the future place of coal. I do not dismiss coal outright, though I would argue it is misleading to say ‘clean coal’ is anywhere even close to where solar and wind are in terms of their technological development.
But I’m not a presidential speechwriter charged with the difficult job of pleasing powerful constituencies either.
Image: White House photos 2/24/09 by Pete Souza