President Obama used his State of the Union address on Wednesday evening to reiterate his administration's commitment to taxpayer-subsidized solar cells, clean coal, and biofuel technology.
The comments were not as much a call for new initiatives as they were a summary of what his administration has already announced, including a $2.3 billion tax creditearlier this month, and the proposals the president last fall in a speech at MIT.
One surprise that few people would have anticipated only a few years ago: a mention of biofuels and clean coal received moderate applause. What drew the audience to its feet, cheering, was Obama's call for the construction of more nuclear power plants. Wind and solar combined produce less than 5 percent of U.S. electricity; Republicans have been calling on the administration to embrace a goal of authorizing 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years.
Here are some excerpts from the president's speech:
We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean energy jobs...(Last year's investment) could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investment in clean energy--in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels...
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
The line that drew the most catcalls and grumbling so far? Obama's claim that there is "overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change." That comes just two months after the so-called ClimateGate scandal, which has resulted in increased scrutiny of climate data, and a week after the controversy created when Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that the group had made a mistake in predicting that Himalayan glaciers will melt completely in 25 years.
Update 7 p.m. PT: Another big applause line: "Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent." No word on whether the president's commitment to transparency extends to airing negotiations on the health care bill on C-SPAN.