Obama Identifies An Axis of Energy U.S. Must Confront
President Barack Obama used his first speech before a joint session of Congress to promise big ideas as solutions to the nation's big problems. Among those ideas: doubling the nation's supply of renewable energy in three years and capping carbon emissions to confront the threat of global warming.
In fact, once Obama finished relaying the grim news about the economy, and explaining why he thinks his budget proposal will help lift the United States to a better future, his first policy prescription was for a dramatic new energy policy. Energy, health care and education, he said, are worthy of investments even in tough economic times because they will lay the groundwork for prosperity in the future, the president said.
When it comes to energy, Obama identified a new axis of foreign powers that the United States must confront. (No, he didn't use that word.) But unlike George W. Bush's Axis of Evil (North Korea, Iran and Iraq), Obama identified three nations whose energy policies are causing their industry to out-compete the U.S.:
China: While the prodigious polluter (having overtaken the U.S. as the world's top annual source of greenhouse gas emissions) can hardly be said to be an environmental saint, China at least has fuel economy standards that far exceed those for vehicles in the U.S.
South Korea: While we produce hybrid electric cars, Obama said, the batteries that run them are made in South Korea.
Germany and Japan: While the U.S. invented the modern wind turbine, Obama said, Germany now produces more of them.
Refreshingly, Obama isn't interested in bullying these nations - just out-competing them in industries of great importance to the future prosperity of the country, and of great importance to the health of the planet.
Here's what Obama had to say about energy:
We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.
It begins with energy.
We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.
Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.
Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.
We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.
But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.
As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.
None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.
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