President Obama scored big with clean energy advocates during his State of the Union speech last night, likening the need for clean energy technology to the race to put a man on the moon.  Here’s an excerpt:

Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

Obama went on to call for 80% of our electricity to come from “clean energy sources” by 2035 and to pay for the transition by eliminating billions in oil industry subsidies:  “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

Great line — you gotta love the guy. Unfortunately, Congress isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to redistribute money from the fossil fuel industry to clean energy. And many members seem to think that government cannot accomplish anything and shouldn’t even try. Let’s hope Congress can get beyond partisan posturing to embrace clean energy solutions we all know are good for the environment and the economy.

Obama is trying hard to move us forward on energy in the face of some of the most hostile and powerful special interests that have ever fed at the trough.  In a era when uttering the word “government” without the requisite sneer can lead to charges of socialism, this is no small thing.

Obama’s clean energy proposals are spelled out in greater detail in a Fact Sheet released by the White House. His budget would increase spending on clean energy technology by a third over 2010 levels, double spending on energy efficiency and increase spending on renewables by 85% with a specific goal of bringing the cost of solar down to $1/watt. If that’s socialism, bring it on.

–Erica Etelson

Posted by Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy co-founded Sungevity and now serves as strategic advisor. He is an internationally recognized opinion leader on climate and energy issues. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy - and Planet - from Dirty Energy (2012), a book that has been described as the clean energy manifesto for the next greatest generation.

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  1. […] standard on par with the rest of the world doesn’t do it. In a previous State of the Union, Obama proposed to get 80% of our electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. We can actually do better than […]

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