President Barack Obama alternately played the role of cheerleader-in-chief and political tough guy while giving green energy pride of place in his State of the Union address Tuesday. In his speech the president sketched out a vision of a government that supports innovation by funding research and development into a variety of new technologies, including clean energy technologies.
While noting that competition from the likes of China and India presents a challenge to the United States global economic position, Obama reaffirmed his belief that home grown technological advances are the key to the country’s economic future. After pointing out that China is now home to the world’s largest solar research facility, he laid out his case for increasing government spending on cleantech research and development, stating “This is our Sputnik moment.”
Based on the president’s tone, the challenge is not just to researchers. It is also to America’s green energy competitors as well as his political rivals.
Some of the specific green energy goals the president highlighted include putting one million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015 and ensuring that 80% of the U.S. electricity comes from clean energy sources by 2035.
Wary of Republicans charge that increased government spending would add to Washington’s hefty budget deficit, the president referred to increased funding for clean energy research and development as an “investment.” Obama also proposed that the government offset the cost of funding clean energy research by eliminating subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies.
The Republican response to the president’s speech, issued by Representative Paul Ryan (R. Wis.), did not specifically mention green energy funding, but did state that the federal debt was out of control and the country was in a state of fiscal crisis.
Obama seems to be girding for a fight over government supported green energy research. “We’re not just handing out money, we’re issuing a challenge,” he said on Tuesday. Based on the president’s tone, the challenge is not just to researchers. It is also to America’s green energy competitors as well as his political rivals.
Photo: Chuck Kennedy, White House