WASHINGTON, DC, January 27, 2010 (ENS) – Clean energy jobs and economic recovery took center stage in President Barack Obama’s second State of the Union address tonight before a Joint Session of Congress that was televised and webcast across the country and around the world.
Saying, “I have never been more hopeful about America’s Future than I am tonight,” the President put clean energy jobs, high-speed rail and basic research for American innovation at the core of the economic recovery.
“One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted – immediately and aggressively,” said Obama. “And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed. But the devastation remains.”
“One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder,” he said.
Obama spoke of the “great decency and great strength” of Americans. “Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit,” President Obama said.
“In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise,” he said.
“We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow,” Obama said. “There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.”
The President signaled that high-speed rail projects funded by the Recovery Act will help to pull American out of the recession.
Tomorrow, he will visit Tampa, Florida, where he said workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad.
California today received a Recovery Act funding award for high-speed rail, which had Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger singing Obama’s praises.
“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for job creation in California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “By showing leadership and including high-speed rail funding in the Recovery Act, the Obama Administration is strongly supporting California’s high speed rail project, which is the largest public works project in the nation and will create jobs, save billions of pounds of greenhouse gases and will be the first true-high speed rail system to break ground in the nation.”
President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information.”
“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean energy jobs,” the President said.
“It’s time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America,” Obama said. “The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same. People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.”
“Next, we need to encourage American innovation,” said President Obama. “Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history – an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.”
“You can see the results of last year’s investment in clean energy – in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries,” he said, “or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.”
Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Rhone Resch was naturally suppportive of the President’s efforts and said the solar industry is responding by providing jobs for the American people.
“Thanks to provisions in the Recovery Act, our industry grew by almost 40 percent in 2009, creating 18,000 jobs across the country in areas hardest hit by the recession, like our manufacturing centers in the Midwest,” Resch said tonight. “These are high quality jobs in communities across the country. Jobs that can’t be outsourced overseas and that put our tradesman back to work installing solar on home, businesses and building the next generation of solar power plants.
“In addition to providing a quality salary and benefits, the solar industry is bringing back a sense of pride in the American workforce,” Resch said. “The solar industry is proud to be playing its role in helping America get back on its feet. But we also want to keep working with the Obama Administration and Congress to make sure the right policies are in place for the solar industry to continue to grow and provide the opportunity for all Americans to go solar.”
President Obama tonight made it clear that he supports not only solar, but nuclear energy as a “clean” energy technology.
“To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country,” the President said. He did not mention how at least 77,000 tons of nuclear waste now temporarily stored at more than 100 sites around the country will be handled now that the Yucca Mountain nuclear disposal site will not be used due to safety concerns.
Obama said the administration will be “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development” and also making “continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.”
Finally, he called on Congress to pass “a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.”
“I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year,” the President said, referring to the Waxman-Markey bill approved by the House last June. “This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.”
“I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change,” Obama said to discontented muttering amongst the assembled legislators.
“But even if you doubt the evidence,” he said, “providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”
President Obama said he is not willing to wait and put America’s future on hold before investing in a clean energy economy.
“China’s not waiting to revamp its economy,” the President said. Germany’s not waiting. India’s not waiting. These nations aren’t standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”
“Well,” Obama said, “I do not accept second-place for the United States of America. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.”
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, sworn in just 11 days ago, gave the Republican response to the State of The Union Address. He too called for clean energy generation and job creation.
“All Americans agree, this nation must become more energy independent and secure,” Governor McDonnell said. “We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all. Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills.”
“Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore,” the governor said.
“But this Administration’s policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes,” said McDonnell. “Now is the time to adopt innovative energy policies that create jobs and lower energy prices.”
Obama’s State of the Union position won support from the environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council.
“President Obama issued a clear and unmistakable call to action tonight, charging the Senate to pass the comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation we need to put Americans back to work and lay the foundation for a generation of prosperity, efficiency and security,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke.
“The president could not have been more clear: this legislation will jump-start economic growth, reduce our reliance on foreign oil and roll back the pollution that threatens our future,” said Beinecke. “The Senate should pass it without delay.”
“That means immediate work for millions of carpenters, electricians, steelworkers, machinists, computer engineers and other Americans across the country. It means investment in the next generation of energy-efficient cars, homes and workplaces. And it means U.S. workers will produce the clean energy technology driving global growth.”
“The president is right on the money,” said Beinecke. “His plan will get Americans back on their feet. Now it’s our job to let our Senators know where we stand. This is our moment. This is our charge, too. It’s time to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation and put America back to work.”