President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address to the nation last night while standing firm on his believe that American ingenuity will carry us safely into a secure future. His overall message was that we need to clear up the partisan politics in Washington in order to write and pass legislation that overcomes the burdens of bureaucracy while opening doors to the technology of the future that can create jobs on American soil. He firmly spoke of his mission to bypass Congress in order to use public land to create clean energy, pledged government funding for innovation in clean technology and manufacturing here in America, promised to stay dedicated to reforms that keep our air clean and reduce emissions, vowed to force natural gas drilling to become safer, asked again for Congress to stop subsidizing oil, and spoke of incentives for businesses to lower their energy bills through power savings. Though he spoke briefly about the opening of new offshore oil drilling, we all know in a climate like that of Washington you’ve got to give a little to get a lot and the President, when it comes to green reforms, was asking for a lot.

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The President’s address focused largely on the idea that many in the green technology world have been stressing for years now – that building American innovation in the future of energy will create jobs at home and therefore buttress our economy by putting Americans back to work. He pulled on themes of last year’s State of the Union, when he called the clean energy future our Sputnik moment and vowed to not let other countries beat us to it. The President spoke of his desire to build “an America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs.  A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.” He noted that the move back to American soil has already started in places like Detroit and that, “the American auto industry is back.” After being bailed out by the American people, GM is back as the largest auto maker in the world, building cars like the Chevy Volt here at home and Ford is investing billions in retooling factories in order to create cleaner, more efficient vehicles in the United States.

“I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills.  Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job,” the President noted, “Think about that – openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.” He continued by laying out a plan to make education in new technology and innovation sectors easier for American workers so those out of work could be re-trained and sent back into the work force as a part of the industries of the future. “After all, innovation is what America has always been about.”

His plan for creating clean energy jobs went further than just training employees – it went into educating business owners as well. He announced that his administration was working on a program that would give incentives to business owners to upgrade their buildings and save a total of $100 billion in energy bills over the next decade, reduce pollution, create more manufacturing for energy saving technology and more jobs for construction workers currently unemployed.

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The President noted before laying out a few ideas on how to forge ahead into the new energy world and also stated for the benefit of his Republican counterparts that he had opened up new drilling offshore and would support the natural gas industry – although later he promised more regulation for the safety of the people affected by it – but we were able to briefly (don’t worry, just briefly) overlook those statements, knowing he’s got to throw his opponents a bone if he’s to make the progress he would like. “Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy,” the President said. “But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough.  This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.” He continued that in order to do so, we had to take the initiatives here, at home and that his administration had funded research that would help American minds solve the problems of the future.

“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 while applause rang through the chamber. “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.” Now that’s a statement worth standing up and cheering for. But since State of the Unions can be full of a lot of rhetoric and little action he didn’t stop there, adding that since Congress won’t act, he will. “I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.”

Though the President spattered his remarks with thoughts on how to make government leaner and stronger he said he couldn’t stay away from keeping Americans safe through health and environmental regulations. “I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago.  I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean,” the President noted. President Obama’s message is clear – he is serious about building the American economy back up by creating jobs here at home and the clean energy sector is one great place to start.

+ The White House

+ Behind the scenes of the writing of the State of the Union