In President Barack Obama’s (D) previous State of the Union (SOTU) addresses he put out ambitious plans for moving the U.S. to more renewable energy like wind and solar power. He pushed for the federal government, including the armed forces to dramatically increase their use of renewable energy both onsite and through the electric grid. While he didn’t offer any significant new programs for solar or wind power in this year’s SOTU he did call for continued support for renewable energy, earning praise from industry supporters.
Obama also noted the large contribution that natural gas is making to the U.S. economy as well as its ability to help reduce emissions. But he also acknowledged its limits calling it a bridge fuel. “It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too,” he said. “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.”
“Our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet,” Obama continued. “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.” However, he contended that the U.S. needs to do more to combat the climate change that is already happening. As such he said the administration is working with states, utilities and others to control carbon pollution. “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way,” he said.
“The president is right: America is making impressive gains on renewables such as wind and solar power, and energy efficiency, at least for now,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC’s) Director of Renewable Energy Policy Nathanael Greene. “Thanks to important federal, state and local policies and laws that promote clean, renewable energy, overall, the state of renewable energy in America is strong.”
Obama’s statements also drew praise from the solar community. “President Obama continues to show his strong, unwavering support for solar energy,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Solar [is] now the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, pumping tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. But despite this milestone, we believe the best is yet to come,” he said.
Resch also called for action from the solar community. “The best way to thank the President for his leadership is to go out and prove him right,” he said.
“We are extremely pleased that the President of the United States acknowledged the strength of the American solar industry,” said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director and President of The Solar Foundation. “As our new National Solar Jobs Census 2013 report shows, the US solar industry grew nearly 20 percent last year.” The census showed that the industry now employs nearly 143,000 people across the U.S. “The President is right to point to solar as a bright spot in our nation’s economic recovery and we are looking forward to a strong 2014 as well,” she added.
However, some cautioned that there may be too much reliance on natural gas. For instance the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s (ITIF’s) Senior Analyst Matthew Stepp applauded the Obama administration’s all-in energy effort but also pointed out some shortcomings of the President’s stance on energy. “Unfortunately, the President’s speech also highlighted what’s wrong with America’s energy and climate strategy. An all-of-the-above approach that leads with natural gas and EPA regulations is not a long-term solution,” he contended. “Natural gas, while marginally cleaner than coal, is no substitute for a transition to renewables, nuclear, carbon capture, biofuels, and electric vehicles. And carbon caps on power plants, while accelerating the shift to natural gas, is no substitute for consumers choosing clean energy because it makes economic sense rather than through government mandates.” He added that more than just carbon caps need to be put in place at this point.Tweet