Depending on how you tally up, Obama gave about eight to ten paragraph-sized clean tech shout outs in Wednesday’s State of the Union Address, and thank goodness for that. The president certainly hasn’t been tiptoeing around the issue of America’s having falling behind in the clean tech race – he recently directed $2.3 billion in recovery act tax credits to clean tech projects – but such heavy emphasis on the need to become competitive in the race, throughout such an important public address, seems like a gift.
And Obama’s not going into compete-mode for nothing: China is spending more than $440 billion creating clean tech industry and jobs, while we’re throwing about $69 billion on the clean tech table. We’re being left in the dust.
“There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products,” Obama said on Wednesday night. “We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.”
It was heartening to watch Obama frame the clean tech issue, again and again on Wednesday, as a jobs issue and an economy issue – to hear him frame it in a way that must resonate at least a little bit with all Americans today, even those who, as he put it “those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.” China, Germany, and India are not “standing still,” not “waiting” to revamp their economies – they’re “making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.” And Obama does not, as he told us that night, “accept second place for the United States of America.”
At which point the host of the S.O.T.U. gathering where I was watching the speech made a squinty-eyed expression at the TV and half-joked, “second place is pretty good.” My friend was right. Second place would be pretty good, if we were in second place. But, as Mother Nature Network’s Karl Burkart was quick to point out, “#14 is more like it.”
Fingers crossed that the Senate passes a jobs bill that’s heavy on the clean tech, as Obama said he “knows” it will. If Obama’s right that “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy,” we’d better hop to it.