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The POTUS and his SOTUS: RT@moreofthesame TL;DR

Jim Lane

The President’s State of the Union speech.

What was new? (Not much). What was feasible amongst DC gridlock? (Not much)

What about energy? (moreofthesame) Where was the Farm Bill? (AWOL).

SOTU 2013.png

In case you were watching wrestling, President Obama gave the State of the Union speech last night.

Big vision, small vision – practical, impractical – partisan, bipartisan. Cable news chattered away all night on those topics — but the speech had the feeling of a long retweet.

Amongst the Twitterati, he’s the POTUS, giving the SOTUS, and in a Twitterverse dominated by 140-character thinking, the SOTUS is, these days, suffering from a case of TL; DR —  Too Long, Didn’t Read. And the tweets focus, instead, on Michelle Obama’s bangs-embracing hairstyle.

The SOTUS contained 18 references to energy — more than enough for the Digest to take a close look at what was said, what was not — and the likelihood of all (or any) of the President’s energy agenda finding its way into the law books or the departmental budgets.

The “You knew it wasn’t a compelling response, when…” Award.

This year’s formal Republican response featured Florida Senator Marco Rubio — and I kid you not that the Associated Press, in its coverage, highlighted a manufactured controversy over the way that Rubio paused to take a drink of water.

Most Premature Response Award

Why wait for a chance for rebuttal when you can go for a “Pre-buttal”? The Institute for Energy Research sent around a pre-buttal “reading list to address claims the President may make.” Priceless.

18 references to energy – is that a lot? The Soundbite Scorecard

Here’s the State of the Union “mentions of energy” scorecard, dating back to President Bush’s “Addicted to oil” speech in 2006.

Obama era

2013: 18 energy mentions, 0 biofuels
2012: 23 energy mentions, 0 biofuels, 1 for “alternative transport fuels”
2011 10 energy mentions, 1 biofuels
2010 15 energy mentions, 1 biofuels
2009 14 energy mentions, 1 biofuels

Bush era

2008 5 energy mentions, 0 biofuels
2007 3 energy mentions, 1 biodiesel 1 ethanol
2006 8 energy mentions, 2 ethanol (the “Addicted to Oil” speech)

The Policy That Dare Not Speak its Name

If you guessed “biofuels,” you get another spin.

In fact, it was “Farm.” Not one mention in the State of the Union. No farm bill, no farmers, no farm exports, no farm jobs. Pretty rough go for a sector that is desperately in need of a renewed Farm Bill — and for one of the most vibrant export sectors of the economy.

What Exactly did the President say about Energy?

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water. 

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

Is it true — the United States, which famously failed to sign the Kyoto Treaty, is cutting emissions?

Yep — credit renewables, and credit replacement of coal with natural gas. Is this ironic or what? There’s a good chance that the US will meet the 2017 Kyoto targets it did not accept, while the EU, which has been pressing hard on all fronts since 2005 to meet them, will miss.

What is a “market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago”?

That’s cap-and-trade.

And the chances of cap-and-trade passing in this Congress?

Um, I’ll take “Zero Chance” for $500, Alex.

What is an Energy Security Trust?

Well, that’s (sort of) defined here, in “The President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class & a Strong America”.

“The Energy Security Trust proposal, which is funded by revenue from oil and gas development on federal lands and offshore…will support research into a range of cost-effective technologies — like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, and vehicles that run on domestically-produced natural gas.”

Is there an actual bill in the Congress for this?

Not lately.

What else is the President proposing for energy?

Doubling wind and solar, increasing fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, directing cabinet officers to find executive actions that can be taken to tackle climate change, renewing the renewable energy Production Tax Credit, and Race for the Top Awards that will help states adopt energy efficiency policies.

Anything new in there?

Not much.

Will the Production Tax Credit include biofuels?

We’ll see. Hasn’t been a priority for the Congress in the past.

Industry reaction to the POTUS SOTU (in 140 characters or less)?

Fuels America: [Obama is 4] cutting our dependence on oil, fighting climate change, creating jobs. The RFS [is] crucial in encouraging investment in oil alternatives.

RFA: Biofuels can provide the eco-boost the U.S. economy needs.  Ethanol is a high octane engine driving economic growth and job creation, especially in rural America.

Growth Energy: The biofuels industry is already working for the American people, [providing] consumers with a choice and savings at the pump, reducing our dependence on foreign oil

NRDC: We can’t power a 21st-Century economy with the fossil fuels of the past. We [need] energy-efficient cars, workplaces and homes, clean power plants, renewable energy

Disclosure: None.

Jim Lane is editor and publisher  of Biofuels Digest and BioInvest Digest where this article was originally published. Biofuels Digest is the most widely read Biofuels daily read by 14,000+ organizations. Subscribe here.



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Comments

I thought that was the best SOTU address in regards to climate change, possibly ever. Being from Florida, I've seen more of Rubio than I'd like. Like most recent events, climate change is another topic where the GOP is in the minortiy. They make lots of noise though...

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