President Obama spoke last night before a packed Congress and global television audience as he delivered the State of the Union address. He certainly touched upon a lot of themes which drew applause from some and stares from others, but one of the platforms of his speech was a strong focus upon clean energy and related innovation.
Picking up on a theme U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu commented on late last year, President Obama called this our generation’s “Sputnik moment.” He was referring to a variety of areas of innovation including, besides clean energy, biomedical research and information technology. He highlighted how global competitors in these arenas, such as China, have already become home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.
To drive clean energy and green technology innovation in the United States, Obama outlined in his speech some lofty goals designed to spark America’s green collar work force into action. These goals include breaking dependence upon oil with biofuels; becoming the first nation to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015; having 80 percent of America’s electricity come from clean energy sources by 2035; and, within 25 years, giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.
In regards to the definition of what exactly clean energy is, which is a sticking point for many, Obama cast a wide net by saying “some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”
And to pay for all of this innovation, especially in the area of clean energy? The President said to “America’s scientists and engineers” that the government isn’t just handing out money, but rather funding “the Apollo projects of our time” that “focus on the hardest problems in clean energy.” He also called upon Congress to “eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies,” saying that “instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”