Wednesday, February 13, 2013

President Highlights Climate, Energy & Infrastructure In SOTU Address

Feb 12: President Obama, built on his Inaugural address, by adding a few more details in his State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress and the nation. He spent a fair amount of time discussing his vision for energy development, climate change and infrastructure. On climate change he urged Congress to develop a market-based solution to climate change, saying if they don't he will use "executive actions" to address the issue. He said, his proposals "are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago.  Let me repeat -- nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.  It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.  Specifically, he said:
". . .Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.  Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.  We need to make those investments. 
"Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.  After years of talking about it, we're finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar -- with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it.  We produce more natural gas than ever before -- and nearly everyone's energy bill is lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it's true that no single event makes a trend.  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.
"Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.  I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I 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.
"Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it.  And we've begun to change that.  Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.  So let's generate even more.  Solar energy gets cheaper by the year -- let's drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.
"Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence.  We need to encourage that.  And that's why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That's got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.  But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.
"In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  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.
"I'm also issuing a new goal for America:  Let's cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We'll work with the states to do it.  Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.
"America's energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they'd rather locate and hire -- a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America -- a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina -- said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they'll bring even more jobs.  And that's the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.  And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district.  I've seen all those ribbon-cuttings.  
"So tonight, I propose a "Fix-It-First" program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden, I'm also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children. Let's prove that there's no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let's start right away.  We can get this done. . ."
    The Republican response to the SOTU, delivered by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) contained no mention of climate change. The response stated, "One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called "clean energy" companies like Solyndra, let's open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let's reform our energy regulations so that they're reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle-class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China."
    Both the Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) and the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responded negatively to the President's address. Speaker Boehner said in part, "Four years after the president first addressed a joint session of Congress, Americans are still asking, 'where are the jobs?'   Tonight, he offered them little more than more of the same 'stimulus' policies that have failed to fix our economy and put Americans back to work. We cannot grow the middle class and foster job creation by growing government and raising taxes. . ." Senator McConnell said, "To me at least, the occasion cried out for bold and courageous leadership from a re-elected President who has run his last campaign it called for a President who was willing to stare down America's challenges, reject the easy choices, and step outside his political comfort zone -- to unite a deeply divided public behind a common goal. Sadly, history will record no such moment. . . Following four years of this President's unwillingness to challenge liberal dogma, we got more of the same. . ."
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue issued a statement saying in part, "The president's return to a focus on jobs and growth is overdue and we welcome his call for immigration reform and trade expansion. The question is whether the totality of his agenda is designed to grow our economy or simply to grow the government. More spending, higher taxes, and massive federal rule-making will not put Americans back to work or stop the slide of middle-class incomes. To revive our economy, restore confidence, and put millions of unemployed Americans back to work, jobs and growth cannot be an occasional priority, it must be the top priority at all times. . ."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard commented saying, "President Obama recognized the oil and natural gas industry as a robust economic engine that is investing in American jobs, generating billions of dollars for the government each year, and making our country more energy secure. Even with the aggressive expansion of renewable and alternative energy, oil and natural gas will continue to provide the majority of the energy necessary to heat our homes, run our businesses, and fuel our cars for decades to come. We're going to need all sources of energy to fuel a growing economy. Unfortunately, 83 percent of the land and offshore areas controlled by the federal government are still off-limits to oil and natural gas development. . ."
    Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director issued a statement saying, "As the president put it tonight, we must act on the climate crisis 'before it's too late.' We couldn't agree more. . . we applaud his vow to prioritize innovative climate solutions, including  investments in job-producing solar and wind energy as well as a focus on energy and fuel efficiency. These are critical steps forward in the fight against climate disruption, but that progress would be rolled back by more destructive oil drilling and gas fracking, and the burning of toxic tar sands. . ."
    Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "The president has a full box of tools to strike back at climate chaos. The best tool he has is the Clean Air Act. It gives him the authority to reduce the carbon pollution from our dirtiest power plants, the single greatest threat to our climate future. That will take presidential leadership. Americans are counting on it -- and that's what the president delivered tonight. The president also laid out an assertive agenda for reducing dangerous carbon pollution more broadly, promising to lead a national effort to cut energy waste in half by 2030 and advance our use of renewable power. . ."
   The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) said, "The inspiring goal President Obama has set clearly indicates that he understands the importance of energy efficiency, and that he is committed to pursuing both administrative and legislative steps to tap this essential resource that will save the nation billions, create domestic jobs and reduce harmful pollution. We applaud Obama's initiative and look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to achieve the President's goal."
    The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Interim CEO Rob Gramlich said, "President Obama sets a goal tonight 'to once again double generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020.' The President has called on Congress to make the renewable energy Production Tax Credit permanent and refundable, as part of comprehensive corporate tax reform, providing incentives and certainty for investments in new clean energy. . . Policymakers all over should be recognizing the opportunity and supporting the growth of clean energy in their own states, such as through robust state Renewable Portfolio Standards. . ."
    Access the full text of the President's SOTU address (click here). Access a video of the SOTU (click here). Access a fact sheet on Investing in Manufacturing (click here). Access a Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (click here); and a fact sheet (click here). Access the GOP response (click here); and a video (click here). Access Speaker Boehner's response (click here). Access the statement from Sen. McConnell (click here). Access the U.S. Chamber statement (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access the statement from ACEEE (click here). Access the statement from AWEA (click here). Access a summary of more business reaction from the Business Roundtable (click here). [#Climate, #Energy, #Water, #Transport]
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