President Obama gives his State of the Union address tonight, and some supporters of the shift to clean energy worry that the troubled U.S. economy and high unemployment will overwhelm any attention he might want to give climate change.
Sen. John Kerry, who has been leading the Senate drive for climate legislation, urged the president to underscore that climate and energy reform remain priorities for 2010.
"The president has a good story to tell, having personally gone to Copenhagen last month and negotiated an agreement with all the major countries of the world to address climate change," Kerry told E&E. "He can remind Congress that he's invested."
But even if the U.S. president eases off his public drive for climate-protective efforts, the nation’s governors are not.
In state of the state addresses across the country this month, governors from both parties have been taking about the value of clean energy and energy efficiency in the race to create stronger economies and jobs. They are touting their successes and aiming to be the state to lead the world into the future.
Even Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, talked about clean energy, biofuels and carbon capture and storage as he discussed the state's fossil fuel industry.
Electric Cars and Innovation
Another Republican, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, set a goal for his state to be the capital of the electric vehicle industry. And he went on to praise the coal-reliant state’s shift toward renewable energy:
“Over the last two years, Indiana has been the fastest growing state in wind power, and now businesses seeking to build the equipment for this new industry are coming to Muncie, to New Albany, and to Clinton,” Daniels said. “Within weeks, you'll see us explode onto the solar power landscape.”
Daniels might get a run for his money on the electric car capital claim.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, talked about electric carmaker Fisker’s decision to locate in his state, saying, “We should not only build, assemble and distribute the next generation of cars in Delaware. We should invent and manufacture the technology for the cars – as well the technology for other industries of tomorrow.” To get there, he called for approval of a bond bill to finance a center for high-tech laboratories, including alternative energy research.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch also zeroed in on research and development in his state of the state address. He announced a stimulus-funded partnership with the University of New Hampshire to create the Green Launching Pad, a $750,000 program designed to help clean technology companies grow in New Hampshire.
“These companies will be connected to business, science and engineering faculty to develop finance and marketing plans, and be connected with angel investors and business mentors. They will get intensive support to launch or expand their companies and to create new jobs,” Lynch said.
“We can make it possible for even more companies to create the technologies that will reduce pollution, reduce energy costs and provide new sources of energy.”
We’re the Clean Energy State!
The boldest claim so far has come from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who declared New Mexico “the Clean Energy State” and dared California to try to match it.
“I believe we've earned it — passing an aggressive renewable portfolio standard, creating the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and creating the most comprehensive package of clean energy tax incentives in the nation. Just last session we went further, with new initiatives to train our green jobs work force, to establish new districts for renewable energy financing, and to expand solar market development tax credits," Richardson said.
Richardson said New Mexico would soon be announcing one of the world's largest solar generation plants. He also called for doubling the incentive for solar electricity producers in New Mexico. And he announced that he would proposed three bill to cut the state’s use of coal-fired power: “one to punish those who repeatedly and grossly pollute our air, another to enable coal companies to initiate carbon storage, and a global warming cap-and-trade bill to create market mechanisms for reducing pollution and rewarding efficiency."
“Coal-fired energy plants remain a major source of energy at home and at work but pump far too much pollution into our skies. We must demand responsible actions by industry, and we must also give them the tools to do it,” Richardson said.
Like many governors, California's Arnold Schwarzenegger focused his speech on economic recovery and jobs, jobs, jobs. Still, he stressed that California should remain "the dynamo of green technology," and he asked the legislature to pass an sales tax exemption for the purchase of green-tech manufacturing equipment.
"That, too, means jobs. Those are jobs for the new economy," Schwarzenegger said.