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Obama pitches clean energy in State of the Union

Obama pitches clean energy in State of the Union

President Obama took the opportunity last night in his State of the Union Speech to push Congress to pass an energy and climate bill that he says would create jobs, as well as produce clean alternative fuels and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

This is a snapshot, from Whitehouse.gov of what he said about his vision for a clean energy economy "…to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, and more incentives."

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"We will build on the historic $80 billion investment made through the Recovery Act. The President's vision includes investments in important technologies to diversity our energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, including:  the renewal of our nation's nuclear energy industry after a 30-year hiatus, cutting edge biofuel and clean coal technologies, and additional offshore oil and gas drilling.  To fully transition to a clean energy economy and create millions of new American jobs, we must pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to promote energy independence and address climate change."

That won praise, not surprisingly, from environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council's Frances Beinecke, who said in part:

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"The president could not have been more clear: This legislation will jump-start economic growth, reduce our reliance on foreign oil and roll back the pollution that threatens our future. The Senate should pass it without delay."

And even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who gave the Republican response last night, found things to like on the clean energy front, especially the president's call for more offshore drilling and nuclear power:

"Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills. Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore."

But will the Senate act this year on the energy bill already passed by the House? Republicans remain opposed to the cap-and-trade provision that would create a market for clean energy users to sell credits to polluters. But maybe Congress can compromise and pass other parts of the bill?

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And how do you feel about more nuclear power, which burns cleaner than coal but creates a nasty spent fuel problem. And off-shore drilling?

The part of Obama's remarks on the subject are on the next page.

"Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history, an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.

"You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy -– in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.

"But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.

"And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

"I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy.

"I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."

Baltimore Sun file photo of Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland/Doug Kapustin

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