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Solar News

Obama Highlights Solar and Other 'Clean' Energy in State of the Union


January 26, 2011

It was good to hear that President Obama did not forget renewable energy, including solar, in his State of the Union address.  He exhorted the country to "join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources." And in what some folks in the renewable energy field are having heartburn from his subtle shift from "renewable energy" to "clean energy" and for what he next had to say: "Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."

In a preview to the speech, the Huffington Post summarized the sometimes disappointing efforts of the first two years of the Obama Administration. As the article points out, "But for all of his ardent talk, Obama has not yet been able to introduce the transformative changes he has sought."  It may not be transformative, but he certainly got the Wall Street Journal's attention with his State of the Union address.

Obama's vision of renewable energy has developed or matured, depending on your particular political point of view. Obama's shift in his vision certainly seems to coincide with the necessity to get along with Republicans. The Wall Street Journal gave favorable reviews of the speech: "[E]ven if energy issues got few mentions in the speech, Mr. Obama's continued commitment to shifting America's energy mix shouldn't be lost on investors. Most significantly, he broadened his vision of America's energy future from green to ‘clean,' covering clean coal, nuclear and natural gas."  The Journal noted that, "By openly embracing nuclear energy and natural gas as ‘clean,' alongside wind and solar power, Mr. Obama acknowledges that these two more realistic competitors to coal are part of the solution."

And to emphasize his message, President Obama is in Wisconsin today, according to CNN. President Barack Obama toured a solar energy company, "touting the clean energy products made and jobs created there as examples of the kind of innovation America needs. Obama told workers at Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc that their company is part of the push needed to reach goals he set in Tuesday night's State of the Union address -- producing 80 percent of the nation's electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, and having 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015."

GreenTechSolar also gives favorable reviews to the plan--"sounds fantastic"--but questions "what's natural gas doing in there?" The article points out that solar is beginning to become competitive with nuclear so that solar advocates probably need not be too concerned. The threat, according to the article, is natural gas. The article elaborates that "Unfortunately, by including gas in a clean energy standard opens up the real and scary possibility that methane will absorb the lion's share of research grants."

Whether Obama's concession to fossil fuels and nuclear energy will translate into bipartisan support for a comprehensive energy policy in the coming months still remains to be seen.