Amidst Calls for More Fossil Fuels, President Pushes Renewable Energy

In case you missed President Obama’s State of the Union address, here’s a summary of what he said regarding Energy, dirty and clean.

Obama called for an "all of the above" energy policy to appeal to constituents across the board, as energy will be a major plank of his re-election campaign. Obama supports developing every kind of energy including oil, natural gas and renewables. He didn’t mention nuclear during the speech.

But he clearly favors replacing oil subsidies with support for the clean energy industry.

"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. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs."

He acknowledged the ideological divide in Congress is too great to "fight climate change." In his sole slip during the speech, he stumbled over the word "fight" (he said flight) and gargled the words "climate
change," barely able to get them out.

President Obama is in Nevada and Colorado this week, selling the energy proposals he outlined
in the State of the Union address. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu is
also on the road promoting the energy agenda in New Mexico.

Clean Energy

Obama urged Congress to extend the expiring renewable energy production tax credit (PTC), which is crucial particularly for the wind industry.

As he did in his previous State of the Union address, Obama again called for a Clean Energy Standard "that creates a market for innovation."

Unfortunately, his Clean Energy Standard would include energy that many of us don’t consider clean. In addition to wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources, it would include nuclear, natural gas and clean coal. Here’s how renewable energy might fare if there were a Clean Energy Standard rather
than a Renewable Energy Standard.

Although there are plans to introduce Clean Energy Standard legislation, there’s little hope that it would pass in the GOP-dominated House.

Obama defended government support for renewable energy research. "And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural-gas out of shale rock."

Referring to the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee to Solyndra, he said, "Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away." "Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail."

"But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here."

He also referred to the trade complaints filed against China by both the solar and wind industries.

"Global competitiveness in clean energy – and beyond – also requires an increased emphasis on ensuring fair trade policies." He announced the creation of a Trade Enforcement unit which will investigate cases of unfair trading practices.

"I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration, and it’s made a difference. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized."

"I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history — with the Navy
purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."

During his travels this week, Obama will stop at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado, where he’ll announce the U.S. Navy’s commitment to add 1 gigawatt of renewables to its energy portfolio.

He also asked Congress to send him a bill that gives manufacturers incentives to eliminate
energy waste in their factories and to upgrade their buildings.

Expanded Offshore Oil Drilling

"Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75% of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years."

Obama acknowledges the US only has 2% of the world’s oil reserves, which can’t meet the energy demands of a country that consumes 25% of the world’s oil.

Even with this sweeping announcement, Republicans insist he’s placing too many restrictions on
drilling on federal lands. 22 Senate Republicans sent Obama a lengthy letter yesterday saying, "Hundreds
of thousands of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic activity may be foregone if current policies remain in place." They give former President Bush credit for the expanded production.

During his travels this week, he’ll announce a June 20 oil lease sale for the Central Gulf of Mexico, the last sale scheduled as part of the Dept of Interior’s 2007-2012 offshore leasing plan.

Natural Gas

"We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support
more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade," Obama said.

However, recent research shows that natural gas fracking is even dirtier than we thought. In addition to polluting the air and drinking water supplies, the methane released produces more greenhouse gases than any other fossil fuel, including coal.

The US Energy Information Agency also revised its projections on the amount of natural gas that’s available through fracking, saying it could meet US energy demand for only 6 years.

Obama did call for mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in fracking on public lands, but if fracking must continue, disclosure should be required nationwide. "I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. Because America will develop this resource without
putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft study confirming that hydraulic fracturing contaminates groundwater and drinking water wells.

In November, the President’s own Shale Gas Advisory Panel advised that "…. if action is not taken to reduce the environmental impact accompanying the very considerable expansion of shale gas production expected across the country – perhaps as many as 100,000 wells over the next several decades – there is a real risk of serious environmental consequences…"

During his travels this week, the president will announce proposed incentives for natural gas
trucks and buses. He’ll announce a "corridor" is now "open for business" that promotes the use of natural-gas vehicles from California to Utah. One of his stops is at a United Parcel Service (UPS) plant
in Las Vegas that’s using $5.6 million from the stimulus bill to build a public liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling station and develop natural-gas vehicles.

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