Obama: “It begins with energy.”

  • Published on February 25th, 2009

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.

>>Video and text of President Obama’s Address

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

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


  • Lyn-

    Perhaps you should seek help for what appears to be a nasty case of the blahs. Coal may be cheap now, but give it a few months. As soon as the real costs of coal are factored into its low price, it will continue to be cheap. But mark my words, there will be a cap and trade law put on the books AND the price of coal will rise.

    Yes, coal will continue to play a major role for the time being. But that does not preclude the cheapening of other clean sources of energy.

    Cheer up, it’s going to be alright.

  • You believe an Obama speech? Poor fool you. Congress can not write a bill that will drive the American market to produce clean, affordable energy from renewable sources.

    It's not going to happen. Lower income Americans that drive cars can not afford hybrids or electric cars. America is going to continue to use gasoline powered autos until America can't afford the gasoline any more.

    And much of America's electricity will continue to be produced by coal plants. Middle, working, and lower -classes can not afford anything else. Companies like Gulf Power and others in the southeastern United States will burn coal until it runs out. Because their customers can't afford anything other than cheap power.

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