I have waited a long time for a U.S. President to make a strong statement about the need to move away from dependence on fossil fuels and toward a clean energy system. That wait came to an end on January 12, 2016 when I listened to President Obama’s final State of the Union address. His energy-focused comments are reproduced below because I consider them extremely important. Energy issues are critical to our county’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to enhance future economic opportunities.
What is striking to me in the current primary election political debates in the U.S. is the lack of discussion of energy issues by candidates of either political party, Democrat or Republican. Admittedly energy issues are complicated and there are many interests at play. Nevertheless, we need energy to be an important issue in the upcoming U.S. presidential debates once the candidates have been nominated by their respective parties. Critical decisions have to be made about U.S. energy policy in the next few years if we are to successfully begin to address global warming and climate change issues and protect U.S. interests in the evolving global renewable energy markets. We need the American public to understand the issues as well as the proposed policies and their implications for our future energy system. The world is in the early stages of a history-changing transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and the U.S. must assume its rightful place in that transition. This requires presidential leadership, Congressional action, and millions of individual and corporate decisions to participate in and support this transition. President Obama’s words are an important step in that direction.
President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address (energy comments)
“Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record — until 2015 turned out even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?
Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.
Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.
None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”