Investments in research and development have lead to clean energy innovations and new jobs, he said.
"But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives," Mr. Obama said. "That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies."
A bipartisan group of senators are working to gain Republican and Democratic support for a climate bill, but conservatives have decried the Democrats' proposals to set goals for reducing carbon emissions and to create a market for pollution permits. House Democrats passed a climate bill last year, but by a narrow margin. To gain more Republican support, lawmakers in the Senate have given more consideration to policies to encourage nuclear power and more offshore drilling.
Mr. Obama said tonight Congress must pass "a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."
"I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change," he said. "But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future - because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy."
Some progressive advocates of the climate bill applauded the president's remarks.
"The president did not soft-pedal his support for climate action and clean energy jobs, as expected. Quite the reverse," wrote Joe Romm, a senior fellow for the liberal Center for American Progress.
Others were more skeptical, however.
"In a room with top youth leaders and all that can be heard are BOOOOOO's given Obamas inclusion of dirty energy as clean energy," came a Twitter message from the Energy Action Coalition, a network of environmental groups.
Even as the president focused on ideas that could win bipartisan support, Republicans dismissed his words.
"All Americans agree, this nation must become more energy independent and secure," GOP Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said in his response to the State of the Union. "Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills. But this Administration's policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement, "Tonight, the president ignored their concerns by giving a full-throated defense to the very policies the American people oppose," including, he said, "a job-killing cap and trade bill."
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