Obama Speech: Nukes, Offshore Drilling and No Love for Cap-and-Trade

Last Updated Jan 28, 2010 11:52 AM EST

President Obama's State of the Union address covered a lot of energy ground last night. At times it seemed like everything was thrown in there. Solar, advanced biofuels, energy efficiency incentives, "clean" coal and the offshore drilling for oil and gas. And of course, we can't forget the call for a "new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country." What the -?

Heck, he even playfully scolded the folks who disagree with the scientific evidence on climate change, and called for a comprehensive climate and energy bill. Am I missing anything? Oh yes. No continued cuts for oil companies.

Come to think of it, this sounded a lot like what I expect to come out of the tripartisan effort between Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., to develop a compromise climate and energy bill. For everything President Obama did say last night, there were some interesting exclusions. There was not one mention of "cap-and-trade" or any vague or specific call for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The purposeful exclusion of cap-and-trade is a good thing. It basically gives Congress -- which is endlessly hung up on the word -- a pretty wide area to play in. Whether the Senate will still be able to pass anything is another question. Once the topic of reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes up the "comprehensive" legislation may quickly turn to an energy and jobs bill.

In a post yesterday, I mentioned T. Boone Pickens urged folks to to watch for "cues and clues" in his speech that he supports the Nat Gas ACT, legislation that would expand tax credits and incentives to promote the use of natural gas in vehicles. Aside from the mention of "making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development" I heard, and later read, not a whisper more on natural gas.

Actually, there was very little in his speech on transportation fuels at all. There was a brief mention of a high-speed railroad, a vague reference to advanced biofuels and quick line about a plant that created jobs building advanced batteries. Nothing about our use of fuel in cars and trucks. And not a word about corn-based ethanol.

The response from the oil and gas industry this morning was politely supportive. American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard expressed support for Obama's words on offshore drillingand job creation effort. Gerard then called for policies that allow investment and development -- policies that are pro-job, pro-consumer and pro-energy," which sounded like a veiled disapproval of removing tax cuts for oil companies and a caution against pursuing cap-and-trade legislation.

Here's some relevant energy-related snippets from Obama's speech:

"Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.
And just a bit later a shoutout to energy efficiency:
"We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes energy-efficient, which support clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America."
When he throws it all out there:
"But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And 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. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."
Obama on cliamte change and the economic reason to support legislation:
"I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy 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. And America must be that nation."