It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama wants the nation to do more to exploit the benefits of green power. The federal stimulus program, the administration’s strategy for helping the nation claw its way out of recession, has relied heavily on incentives to spark investment and growth in renewable energy.
In his annual State of the Union speech in January, the president embraced that theme and issued a challenge. Specifically, he asked Congress to join him “in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources.”
It is an ambitious goal, given that renewables currently account for less than 10 percent of the nation’s energy consumption. It is also unclear exactly how the president wants the country to reach that goal. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress and the president will find the common will to put that goal into law. For now, the question remains open for analysis and speculation.
Notably, Obama also said, “Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all—and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”
The president has applied a broad brush to his rendering of renewables. It is significant, especially given that nuclear, coal and gas are not on everyone’s list of legitimate sources of clean energy. However, realists argue that all three will need to be a major component of our future energy picture since true renewables alone, such as wind, solar and biomass, will not be able to meet the country’s enormous and growing demand.
However, Obama touched on at least one detail that is sure to please clean-energy purists, when he said, “With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.”
The next day, Vice President Joe Biden carried that (electric) torch one step further and announced the administration’s three-part advanced technology vehicle plan. It includes a $7,500 rebate for electric vehicles available to all consumers immediately at the point of sale; enhanced research and development investments in electric drive, batteries and energy-storage technologies; and grants to up to 30 communities that are investing in the development of electric vehicle infrastructure. All three ideas were included as proposals in the president’s next fiscal year budget.