Obama calls for clean energy standard

By Anna Austin | January 25, 2012

While U.S. President Barack Obama placed plenty of emphasis on domestically sourced fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil in his Jan. 24 State of the Union Address, he called on Congress to get working on a national clean energy standard, and stressed the importance of new incentives for renewable energy innovation.

Pointing out that the U.S. contains only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, Obama stressed that oil isn’t enough. “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,” he said.

The U.S. has subsidized oil companies for a century, Obama pointed out. “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.”

Additionally, Obama said the country can spur energy innovation with new incentives, and ordered his administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes. “The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change,” he said. “But there's no reason why Congress shouldn't at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven't acted. Well tonight, I will.”

He added that the U.S. Department of Defense 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.

While Obama did not specifically address any renewable energy sources other than a very brief mention of wind and solar, the mention of a clean energy standard has been well received by the renewable energy industry. “President Obama outlined a welcome set of energy policies designed to take full advantage of all sources of energy that are available to the nation,” said Biomass Power Association President Bob Cleaves. “The BPA agrees with the president that we must support and develop ‘American-made energy’ in all its forms.”

Cleaves said the BPA especially commends Obama’s commitment to a national clean energy standard, which would go far toward solidifying the future of promising renewable energy technologies, including biomass. “The establishment of a clean energy standard will necessarily be a lengthy process but, in the near term, we urge Congress to extend the Treasury Department’s 1603 Grant Program along with other tax credits and incentives upon which many in the renewable energy sector rely,” he said.

The Biomass Thermal Energy Council weighed in, too. "We are encouraged by President Obama's dedication to advance clean energy sources, and we must stress the importance of addressing thermal applications in any energy strategy," said Joseph Seymour, executive director of BTEC. "With thermal applications accounting for approximately one-third of our nation's energy consumption, incorporating biomass thermal energy into a national CES will increase the use of our renewable resources while creating and maintaining energy jobs in our communities."

Cleaves added that the biomass industry employs thousands of Americans, many of whom live in rural areas, and supplies thousands of megawatts of renewable energy. “Projects across the country—most notably in Gainesville, Fla., Nacogdoches, Texas, and Berlin, N.H.,--are  underway that will add significantly to our already strong contributions.”

"We welcome President Obama's call for an all-of the-above strategy to develop American energy," Seymour said. "Creating local jobs and reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil have always been part of BTEC's mission. We look forward to working with his administration in meeting these goals through the utilization of one of America's most abundant renewable resources - biomass."