Tapping into the vast potential of America’s wind power and solar industries while also increasing the nation’s traditional domestic energy supplies formed a major part of US President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address last week.
Before an estimated television audience of 38 million viewers, Obama said the country could develop a lasting economy by building on energy, manufacturing, job skills and a renewal of American values.
“Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy,” Obama said, adding millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration have been opened in the past three years. He said he would be directing government officials to rapidly expand potential offshore oil and gas resources. The President also noted American oil production is the highest it’s been in eight years.
“But with only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough,” Obama said. “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 renewable energy use has nearly doubled because of federal investments, and thousands of Americans now have jobs in the sector.
“When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance,” Obama said. “But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, ‘I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future’.”
The President added he would not turn away from the promise of clean energy.
“I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these jobs.”
Obama also said his administration would allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes while the US Navy would be purchasing enough clean energy capacity to power 250,000 homes a year.
However, it remains to be seen whether Congress will pass an extension to the current Production Tax Credit which is due to expire at the end of this year. The credit has been a major driver to wind energy in the US for seven years.
In a statement following Obama’s speech, Timothy Wirth, the president of the United Nations Foundation, said highlighting the importance of increased investment in renewable energy and greater energy efficiency will help the US have a stronger economic future while advancing global sustainable energy goals.
Wirth said both Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “remind us that now is the time to take on the issue of sustainable energy, with policies and investments that build a better, more secure future for everyone.”
The further exploitation of oil and gas will no doubt trigger heated debate due to its detrimental environmental and climate impact, but the President’s commitment to wind power is very welcome.