Obama stresses importance of clean energy in State of the Union

By Erin Voegele | February 13, 2013

Energy and climate change were two areas of focus in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12. “Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy,” he said. “After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.”

While Obama did speak about the role of fossil fuels in America’s energy future, he also stressed the importance of renewable energy sources and combatting climate change. “Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend,” he said. “But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods—all are now more frequent and more intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science—and act before it’s too late.”

In his speech, the President noted that making meaningful progress in mitigating climate change can be accomplished while driving strong economic growth. He urged Congress to find a market-based solution to climate change, but also stressed that if Congress doesn’t act soon, he will. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy,” Obama continued.

To help support the development of clean energy, Obama proposed that a portion of oil and gas revenues be used to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift cars and trucks off of oil for good. “If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we,” he said. “Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.”

The President also stressed that his proposed initiatives in energy, manufacturing, infrastructure and housing will all help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. He also spoke of the importance of providing U.S. citizens with the skills and training needed to fill those high-tech jobs. In addition, Obama asked Congress to help create a network of manufacturing hubs to guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing takes place in America. The hubs would be modeled after a hub in Ohio where a once-shuttered warehouse has become a state-of-the-art lab that is mastering the process of 3D printing. During his speech, Obama announced that his administration is launching three of these hubs, where businesses will partner with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Energy. He also asked members of Congress to help create a network of 15 hubs.

In response to the State of the Union Address, Novozymes released a statement stressing the biofuel industry’s ability to create jobs and economic development opportunities. “The President wants more jobs and we’ve got an answer: renewable fuel,” said Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America. “Renewable fuel has already put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in good-paying, long-term careers, and cut the emissions that lead to climate change. Investors want to keep investing but need policy certainty. If America provides that certainty—and lets policies like the renewable fuels standard work—we’ll see more constructions jobs, long-terms careers, steel in the ground and less effects on our air and environment.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, applauded Obama’s ambitious policy goals for renewable energy. “The biofuels industry is already working for the American people, and with a renewed emphasis on sustainable biofuels, our industry will continue to create good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced, revitalize our economy, drive cutting edge research and investment, as well as provide consumers with a choice and savings at the pump, all while reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil that costs taxpayers and our military billions,” he said.

The Renewable Fuels Association has also spoken out in support of the President’s message. “The ethanol industry is grateful to President Obama for his vision of a stronger, cleaner, more self-reliant country and his continuing support of the renewable fuels industry and the renewable fuel standard.,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “Working together we can continue to address environmental issues such as meaningful greenhouse gas reduction as well as the tough economic challenges of job creation and economic and national security.”

The Fuels America coalition stressed the importance of the RFS, noting that has been crucial in encouraging investment in oil alternatives, driving innovation in advanced biofuels and opening up markets so that Americans have a choice at the pump. “Renewable fuel has an important role to play in supporting President Obama’s energy agenda and job-creation goals,” said the coalition in a statement. “The companies of the renewable fuel sector stand ready to help make those goals a reality.”

Representatives of the biomass power industry have also indicated support of Obama’s message. “President Obama’s second term agenda, if enacted as laid out in his State of the Union address, contains many initiatives that will benefit the biomass industry. Tax and energy reform, as well as policies to address climate change, will enhance the ability of the biomass industry to serve the nation as a reliable, dependable, renewable energy source,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. ““We applaud President Obama for encouraging control of America’s energy future. Biomass is a growing part of this, contributing to lower emissions, helping the nation rely on its own domestic fuel resources and using byproducts and waste materials that would likely end up in landfills. Finally, we agree on the need for a bipartisan, market-based solution to address climate change. We support the president’s plan to take executive action if needed, but believe that all parties can work together to achieve a compromise.”