The renewable energy industry and those concerned about climate change have waited a while but finally heard what they wanted on Monday. In his inaugural address, President Obama brought climate change and renewable energy to the forefront once again.
The president stated that the people of the United States still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said.
He responded to the members of Congress who deny the science of global warming and its relationship to climate change saying “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
President Obama then renewed the commitment to renewable energy which was a hallmark of the first two years of his administration.
“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult, he said. “But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”
American manufacturers of solar systems and wind turbines are undoubtedly pleased to hear the president reinforce his support of American-based manufacturing and R & D.
“We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise.”
At the beginning of his first term Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and they were able to pass much of the renewable energy agenda set forth by the president. Cap and trade failed, but he was able to get money in the Stimulus to fund green energy programs begun under George Bush, as well and new initiatives put forth by Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy.
These programs led to a boom in wind and solar manufacturing and installation of solar and wind systems that more than doubled the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources.
Then Solyndra happened and fossil fuel-friendly Republicans, who are opposed to renewal energy to begin with, were able to politicize that problem enough to block any new initiatives or funding for green energy. In fact they almost killed the wind energy tax credit known as the PTC. A last second deal in the fiscal cliff negotiations allowed that key tax credit to be extended another year.
It sounds like in Obama’s second term there will be a new push both for climate change legislation and renewable energy which is key to solving the problems of carbon pollution which is the major cause of climate change.
The president has some allies, however. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg is throwing his muscle behind climate change legislation. New Jersey Governor Christie and the governors of Connecticut and Maryland are also supportive. Some western governors like Hickenlooper of Colorado are also on board, as is Governor Brown of California.
Just this week Phil Anschutz, who owns an oil and gas exploration business, announced he is willing to invest $9 billion dollars to build 1,000 wind turbines in Wyoming. Will the president’s restated and forceful commitment toward renewable help keep that and similar projects moving? It surely can’t hurt.
The president tied renewable energy to the vitality of the economy going forward which will be helpful in framing the debate in Congress.
“That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure - our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks,” he said. “That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
Getting the science deniers in the Republican-controlled House will be tough. Getting five Republican Senators to break a filibuster will also be tough. The good news is that the renewable energy industry has picked up some major muscle. That is a good thing.
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