With Congress gridlocked and clean-energy policy stifled by solar-panel maker Solyndra's default on a federal loan, President Obama said on Tuesday evening in his State of the Union address that he is pressing forward with major initiatives in solar and wind energy that his administration can shepherd on its own.
“The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change,” Obama said. “But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will.”
Obama announced that the Navy will make the largest purchase of renewable energy purchase in history, enough to power a quarter of a million homes a year, and the Interior Department will lay the foundation to provide 3 million homes with renewable energy power from solar and wind projects on public lands by year’s end. The announcements are consistent with Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” initiatives that focus on actions the president can do under his own executive authority without congressional action.
Obama’s commitment to renewable energy in his speech comes as Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail attack him for the failings of Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar manufacturer that received a $535 million federal loan guarantee.
Repeating his call from last year’s State of the Union address, Obama urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would create a standard for producing electricity from cleaner sources such as natural gas, nuclear power, and renewables by 2035. He also called on Congress to act on clean-energy tax credits but didn’t specify what kind.
Obama also announced that his administration would provide new incentives for industrial manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of their operations. That could save companies $100 billion over the next decade, Obama said.
The president's moves on clean energy are bolder than some experts were expecting, such as his call to develop wind and solar energy projects on public lands. But others, like the Pentagon’s initiatives and the focus on energy efficiency, are already part of the White House strategy on clean energy absent comprehensive energy and environment policy from Congress.
On Dec. 2, Obama announced $4 billion in federal and private green-building investment. And just a few days later, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the government’s largest-ever purchase of biofuels, which the Navy plans to begin using in a demonstration project this summer.