How important is President Obama's State of the Union speech to his climate and energy agenda?
In front of a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, Obama will give his fifth State of the Union speech, and while it's unclear how much he'll focus on energy and climate policy, all corners of the debate are hoping he goes big.
Obama's position on these issues has evolved over his past few speeches. In 2011, he called on Congress to pass a clean-energy standard, so that by 2035, 80 percent of the nation's electricity would come from clean-energy resources. Obama mentioned natural gas, a cleaner-burning fossil fuel whose production has ballooned in recent years, just once in that speech, and oil, whose production was also on the rise by this time, just twice (but neither reference was to the oil boom). A year later while he was on the campaign trail seeking to win the White House for a second time, Obama was much more bullish on the nation's booming oil and natural gas, mentioning natural gas five times and oil 10 times in his 2012 State of the Union speech. By 2013, Obama seemed to level out on both fronts. He talked more about renewable energy, a little bit less about oil and gas production, and significantly more about climate change, an issue he only touched on briefly in his two previous speeches.
Have Obama's past State of the Union speeches foreshadowed what he in fact focused on over the coming year? Or, has his talk not translated into much action?
What do you think is in store this year? And what do you want to be in store?
Use this forum as a sounding board for your predictions for the address and, once he gives it, your reactions. This will be updated Wednesday with details of the speech.
Updated with details of his speech, delivered Tuesday night:
Ignoring environmentalists who are urging him to oppose all fossil-fuel production, Obama doubled down on his support for natural gas, calling it "the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution that causes climate change."
Obama repeated the "all of the above" mantra that leaders of most of the nation's major environmental groups have urged him to drop. "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," he said.
The president's full-throttled endorsement of natural gas—both as an economic driver and as a tool to cut carbon emissions—received the most attention in what was a relatively minor focus on energy and climate issues compared with those of his previous speeches to Congress.
Obama mentioned only in passing—and not by name—the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations to cut carbon emissions from the nation's power plants. He also didn't say anything about his administration's defense of those rules, which are already facing attacks from congressional Republicans and industry groups. The president did tout the growth in solar power, however. "Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar," he said.
Much of what Obama talked about on energy and environmental issues he has already done or announced, including tougher fuel-efficiency standards for trucks. Left unmentioned in the speech was any talk of wind energy, biofuels, nuclear power (not to be confused with nuclear weapons, which Obama did speak of), coal, and the Keystone XL pipeline.