Jan 26 2011

The State of the Environment

President Obama delivering his 2011 State Of The Union Address, via wikimedia

Yesterday, President Obama made the biggest presidential speech of the year when he spoke to Congress to address the State of the Union.  The president mentioned the economy, deficit, infrastructure, and education, there were some significant mentions of environmental policy that has come out of this speech. Obama’s biggest proposals on the environment related to clean energy.  He said that we are reaching a “Sputnik moment” in clean energy, referring to when the Russians beat us into space with the Sputnik space capsule and sparked the space race.

In response to this challenge, Obama called for an increase in innovation and investment in the clean energy industry.  He set a goal for 80% of US energy to come from clean energy by 2035 and mentioned power coming from wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, and clean coal sources.  President Obama also called for taxpayers’ money to stop funding oil companies, stating: “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.”

Notably absent from the speech was any mention of climate change specifically.  The president focused mainly on the economic and job-creation benefits of investing in clean energy rather than emphasizing the environmental benefits.  There was no mention of capping greenhouse gases, but there was mention of Obama’s recent push to overhaul regulations.  One of the rules he singled out as his “favorite” was the regulation of salmon, which is controlled by the Interior Department while in freshwater and controlled by the Commerce Department in saltwater.

Nevertheless, he assured the public that he would not back off of regulations which protect health and welfare in relation to the environment:

But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.

Finally, the president endorsed light speed rail, a favorite environmentalist idea.  Below are a few of the earliest articles out regarding mentions of environmental issues in the State of the Union address.

Legal Planet: “The State of the Union Address: Good on Energy, MIA on Climate”

President Obama’s State of the Union address had good news for research universities and for renewable energy:

“We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people. Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. In terms of renewable energy, he added: “I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.””

The President also came out strongly in favor of high-speed rail.

Treehugger: “Obama’s State of the Union: 80% of US Should Run on Clean Energy by 2035”

Obama just wrapped up the 2011 State of the Union address, and one of the clear highlights was his call for massive national investment in new technologies — especially clean energy. Referring to renewable energy, Obama said that “this was our generation’s Sputnik moment”; the moment when we realize that we’ve fallen behind and redouble our efforts. But that wasn’t the only notable element of Obama’s speech in terms of climate, energy, and the environment.

Scientific American: “Observations: Scientific American Editors Respond to Obama’s State of the Union”

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night touched on topics that are near and dear to us at Scientific American, including technology, green energy sources, health care and innovation. Four of our editors give their thoughts on Obama’s speech and provide some context in the video below:

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