Listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night we cheered for his green ambitions as he laid out a plan to energize the American economy with the manufacturing of clean technology. We were hoping he’d keep up that steam but today, during a speech in Nevada, he let down our hopes slightly by focusing almost exclusively on oil and natural gas drilling. This was a surprise coming from the President – especially in a state that has such promise for truly renewable energy. With geothermal and solar power available in such abundance in the Silver State, it is a bit curious why the President didn’t seek to point out their merits while speaking in Las Vegas.
“I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough,” the President said during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. ”It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.” We hoped that meant that he’s moving on to incentivize cleaner industries, but today’s speech made it seem like he’s interested in exploring the possibilities of natural gas instead – an industry that has been proven in its current state to be dirtier than coal.
“We’ve got to keep at it. We’ve got to take advantage of this incredible natural resource,” the President said today of natural gas drilling. “And think about what could happen if we do. Think about an America where more cars and trucks are running on domestic natural gas than on foreign oil.” In what looks to be a nod to the recent protests by citizens against using hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas — also known as fracking it uses dangerous chemicals and pressurized water to release gas from bedrock — the President decided to acknowledge those that oppose the process. “I know that there are families that are worried about the impact this could have on our environment and on the health of our communities,” the President said to the crowd in Las Vegas. “And I share that concern. So that’s why I’m requiring — for the first time ever — that all companies drilling for gas on public lands disclose the chemicals they use. We want to make sure that this is done properly and safely.”
Stating the nasty chemicals the gas companies are using in their fracking wells is a far cry from making sure things are safe. It’s like saying that you just doused a bagel in E. coli and then handing it to a friend for lunch. The President hasn’t given any clues that he’d like to take action to make the fracking business safer, just that he wants to know just what unsafe chemicals they use.
As the President himself said on Tuesday, and again in Nevada, he wanted to lay out, “a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last, that has a firm foundation, where we’re making stuff and selling stuff and moving it around.” Natural gas is a finite and pollution ridden industry. No matter how clean the emissions from a natural gas tail pipe are, the fuel has a dirty life-cycle and the Department of Energy just announced that the reserve we thought we had hidden under our soil is 2/3 smaller than they thought it was. We’re calling on the President to stand up to his promise to make American-made energy last by throwing his support on the kinds of power that will truly last – like wind, solar, geothermal and hydro power.