President Barack Obama has been clear about his support for renewable energy – a position he reaffirmed in Tuesday night's State of the Union (SOTU) address. Although the speech was short on energy-related specifics, it did highlight the role wind energy and solar power would play in meeting a number of the administration's goals.
Perhaps it was fitting, then, that one of the guests seated in the First Lady's box was Lee Maxwell, a wind energy technician credited with co-launching Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Kirkwood Community College's wind energy training program.
Indeed, throughout the last several years, Obama has pledged his support for wind energy, even making the production tax credit a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. In his SOTU address, the president highlighted the progress the country has made to increase the penetration of renewable energy, especially wind power.
"Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it – and we've begun to change that," he said. "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. Let's drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we."
The president's call for renewable energy is not new. However, his speech did highlight one issue that has been downplayed by the administration. That topic, of course, is climate change, which, lately, has been considered a partisan issue. Obama stressed that clean energy would be critical to protecting future generations.
"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change," he said. "Now, 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, floods – all are now more frequent and more 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.
Obama urged Congress to devise bipartisan legislation to address climate change but warned he would take executive action if lawmakers failed to act.
"But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will," Obama said. "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."
In a statement, American Wind Energy Association Interim CEO Rob Gramlich lauded the president's continued support for wind power.
‘We are proud to be recognized for producing nearly half of the nation's new electric capacity last year – creating tens of thousands of jobs – and as a central climate solution,’ he said. "Wind power is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective greenhouse-gas mitigation technologies available to our nation. With over 60 GW of wind power generating capacity now installed in America, wind energy will avoid nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions this year – equal to 1.8% of the entire country's total carbon emissions."
In addition to promoting renewable energy, Obama announced the launch of three "advanced manufacturing hubs" that will focus on developing advanced technology solutions, including for the U.S. Department of Energy.