Wednesday, January 29, 2014

President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address: Summary and Green Highlights

President Obama's 2014 state of the union address did reference carbon pollution and the need for more action on climate change, but environmental concerns did not receive the attention that some had hoped for.

The President's focus was on continuing to grow the nations economy and provide more jobs. He citing the "more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years." Much of his speech addressed the issue of education. He boasted that "America's graduation rate to its highest levels in more than three decades." The President further elaborated his focus on education stating that America needs to focus on building "tomorrows workforce." He talked about innovative private sector funding for pre k, and making it easier for kids to afford college. He also explained that he has directed Vice President Biden to work on new training and apprenticeship programs.

Obama reiterated his belief that connecting people to the Internet is important for America and he explained how he is behind efforts to provide online connectivity to schools.

He talked about alleviating poverty, reducing gender inequality in the workforce, providing opportunities for immigrants and of course health care.

The President mentioned diplomatic efforts in both Iran and Syria and he indicated that he is prepared to continue the ongoing fight against terrorism, including al-Qaida, while taking America off of the permanent war footing it has been on.

He outlined some ambitious investment support plans including MyRA which will guarantee that when people are investing for retirement, they will not lose their capital and he further stated that he will provide protection for homeowners against another housing credit crisis.

Obama said that the US is "better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth." He indicated his desire to out-compete other nations in high tech manufacturing and thereby provide jobs. To this end he announced that his administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio. These hubs connect businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies.

He articulated his support for small business which account for 98 percent of US exports. He stated that his administration has made more loans to small business than any other American administration. He also indicated that he wants to do more to "help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America."

The President also said that he want to undo last year's cuts to basic research and he supports a patent reform bill "that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation."

As far as Congress is concerned he suggested that he is willing to work with them where possible but he also intimated that he will act on his own when he has to.

On the environmental front there was some good news, like the fact that America is now building some of the most fuel-efficient cars in the world. However the President also cited some unfortunate facts associated with his "all of the above" energy strategy.  This includes the fact that America has significantly increased its oil production. While buying less foreign oil is undeniably a good thing, under Obama the US has become a leading producer of fossil fuels and this is antithetical to efforts to manage climate change. 

Here are excerpts of his comments on energy including solar as well as his statements on carbon pollution and climate change.

All of the Above Energy Strategy

"Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The "all the above" energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades."

Natural Gas

"One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas."

Clean Environment

"Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we're at it, I'll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations."

Solar

"Now, it's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming; we're becoming a global leader in solar too. Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced."

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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 we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

Efficiency

"And even as we've increased energy production, we've partnered with businesses, builders and local communities to reduce the energy we consume."

Fuel Efficiency Standards

"When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump."

Carbon Pollution and Climate Change

"[O]ur energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The the shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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