by Ted Glick
I woke up this morning wondering if my ears had deceived me. I didn’t remember hearing anything in Obama’s speech last night about clean energy investments or clean energy jobs. So I looked up the transcript and went through it.
It turns out Obama did say something along these lines. One thing, one part of a sentence. Here it is:
If we provide the right incentives, the right support — and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules — we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world. That’s how America can be number one again.
That was it, nothing more.
To compare, here’s what Obama said in his State of the Union speech seven and a half months ago along these lines:
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology — (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
“Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”
“That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
“At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)
“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
“Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)”
He didn’t mention the climate crisis in that speech but most, not all, of what I quote above was pretty good. Last night he took another step backwards, one week after he made his lousy decision to punt on strengthening ozone standards.
I appreciated, on Wednesday night, that one of the questioners asked the Republican Presidential candidates where they stand on the issue of the climate crisis. I was surprised to hear Jon Huntsman say that “98 out of 100” climate scientists believe the climate is heating up and human activity is the major reason.
It’s looking like, as far as the climate issue being a major issue of the 2012 election campaign in this time of extreme weather and record-breaking heat waves, it’s not going to come from the Presidential candidates of either major party. It’s up to the organizers, activists, debate moderators, bloggers, commentators and grassroots folks to make it so.
We have to get serious, find our “inner lion” and “bare out teeth,” in Michael Marx’s words, to make sure the biggest civilizational crisis we have ever faced, one getting worse much more quickly than scientists expected, is not “forgotten” over the next 14 months until election day, and beyond.
Ted Glick is the National Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and more information can be found at http://www.tedglick.com. He can be followed on twitter @jtglick.