Obama emphasizes natural gas-fired energy, renewables in State of the Union

President Barack Obama made a push for cleaner power through both natural gas-fired power generation and renewable energy in his state of the union address Tuesday night, saying that America is “finally poised to control our own energy future.”

Obama continued to address the need to combat climate change, noting that the 12 hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 15 years. He also pointed out a recent trend of weather-related natural disasters as a result of changes in global climate.

“Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense,” he said. “We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.”

The president emphasized, however, that progress made in combating global climate change would not have to come at the detriment of the U.S. economy, saying the country “can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.”

Obama added that other countries had dominated the clean-energy market four years ago, but the U.S. is beginning to change that. He said wind energy added nearly of all new power capacity in the country last year, and solar energy continues to become cheaper each year.

While making a push for renewable sources of energy, saying that the U.S. should add generate more wind energy and drive the costs down of solar energy even more, Obama also said the government needs to encourage a natural gas boom that “has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence” and that his administration would “keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Advances in technology may also play a critical role in the president’s energy plan. He noted in his speech that he wants to work with Congress to encourage technology to help natural gas burn cleaner and also proposed that some oil and gas revenue could be used to fund an Energy Security Trust to drive new research and technology to “shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Obama urged Congress to take action to pursue a “bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” but also said, failing any action by Congress, that he would direct his cabinet to produce executive actions to reduce pollution and speed a transition to sustainable energy sources.

The president’s speech did not contain any references to the use of coal, despite the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicting in a Short-Term Energy Outlook released Tuesday that coal-fired power generation would increase over the next two year as natural-gas fired generation would decrease over the same time period.

“I was disappointed on energy,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told reporters, according to The Huffington Post. “Not to say a word about coal – and coal produces about 35 percent of the nation's energy. When you look at it, you've got to talk about climate, and if you're talking about climate, the United States of America consumes close to one-eighth of the coal that's burned in the world – you should be finding the technology that helps use it cleanly, and uses it much better and more efficiently. So that was disappointing.”

Obama’s remarks on renewable energy, however, drew support from groups such as the Solar Energy Industries Association. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, said the president’s vision on energy is in line with what the association is working to achieve.

“Energy is a primary input to our nation’s economic system, so it’s appropriate that President Obama is placing emphasis on developing our nation’s robust clean energy resources to help rebuild the nation’s economy,” Resch said. “We are especially encouraged by the president’s commitment to securing America’s place as a leader in clean energy innovation throughout the world. President Obama understands that the stakes are high, and we must not fall behind other nations as the world shifts to emissions-free clean energy technologies like solar.”

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