Photo via the New York Times
Obama just wrapped his first address to the nation from the oval office, discussing the federal response to the BP Gulf spill and how the event relates to energy policy in general. The speech was pretty standard Obama -- plenty of powerful rhetoric and sweeping appeals to look forward. What I was listening for, however, weren't vague reassurances and calls to rally around clean energy. I was looking for any hints of the actual policy ideas the president intends to support to actually set those appeals into action. Here's what I found: Not much. While I feel like the general content of the speech was solid (even if it got wishy-washy at the end), it was short on concrete details.
There were some statements that rang true:
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked - not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.True, true, and true. But even though he mentioned the energy legislation that passed the House last year, he otherwise neglected to mention any concrete policies that comprise the action that the president evidently longs for. And it's not that he doesn't understand the scope of the issue at hand -- he does:
The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.But he also knows that the way to create the clean energy economy he envisions is to price carbon, and he knows there almost certainly aren't the votes to pass a bill doing that in the Senate. An alternative energy-only bill is not going to wean us off oil. So while I applaud the remarks in that they move the conversation in the right direction, I'm left wanting for any idea on how Obama actually plans to move forward on clean energy.
Regardless, you can't argue that this is pretty true/powerful stuff (sure, it's melodramatic -- but c'mon, it's a presidential speech):
We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
More on Obama's Response to the Gulf Spill
Obama Speech Links BP Gulf Spill to Need for Clean Energy
Obama Bans New Offshore Drilling Until Investigation on Gulf Spill