Last night, President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address. As in his previous four annual addresses, energy and environmental issues featured prominently in this year's remarks. Here's a closer look at some of the highlights from the transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery:
The U.S. Capitol, site of the President's annual State of the Union address.
Energy development as economic development: As in previous years, President Obama promoted an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy as a foundational element of the nation's economy.
Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades.
Natural gas revolution: President Obama highlighted the economic value of increased domestic natural gas production. Calling natural gas the "bridge fuel" to reduced carbon emissions, he pledged to expedite the development of factories and transportation fueling stations reliant on domestic natural gas, while continuing to demonstrate environmental stewardship:
One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we're at it, I'll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.
Renewable energy: Solar power is among the nation's fastest-growing energy resources. President Obama called for reformed tax policies to level the playing field for solar and other renewable energy technologies:
It's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming; we're becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced. Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
Energy efficiency: As in previous speeches, President Obama touted his administration's efforts to improve the nation's energy efficiency. In particular, he focused on tighter fuel efficiency standards for the transportation sector:
And even as we've increased energy production, we've partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
Climate change: President Obama reiterated his belief that climate change driven by carbon dioxide emissions is not only a threat but is a present harm. With Congress apparently unwilling to act, President Obama pointed to his administration's proposed new standards on power plant emissions of carbon:
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
While the positions and initiatives announced last night may not be new, President Obama's renewed commitment to these energy policies signals his continued approach to growing the American economy through improved use of our nation's energy resources, all while addressing environmental challenges. Consistent with last year's State of the Union address, President Obama appears to acknowledge a lack of congressional consensus around energy policy, and the corresponding need for executive action. Over the course of 2014, expect his administration to pursue goals like facilitating the production and use of domestic natural gas and renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and addressing climate change. Exactly how these initiatives take shape -- and whether they succeed -- will play out over the coming year.