Green technology supporters got a boost from Tuesday's State of the Union when the president said he wanted renewable energy sources to power 80 percent of US energy needs. Despite this position, though, Obama's speech left both sides of the the green energy debate grumbling. Environmentalists aren't happy that Obama framed green technology in strictly aspirational and financial terms, saying it was an opportunity to retrofit American industry and to keep the US competitive. This approach let him sidestep hot-button terminology like global warming and climate change. Meanwhile, some on the right think his proposal is just "cap and trade" by another name.
Here's how the arguments shook out:
- Obama Lied As far as the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel is concerned, Obama is just sneaking in cap and trade, which died in the Senate last year, under a new name. But this time, Strassel says, it's cap and trade with a more onerous twist:
What the president was in essence calling for—in happier, fuzzier, broader language—is what policy wonks refer to as a "renewable portfolio standard." This is a government mandate requiring that utilities produce annually a specific amount of their electricity from renewable sources—wind, solar, biofuels ... Under Mr. Obama's new proposal, the government skips the tax part and outright requires the use of costly renewables.
- Clean Energy Is a Trap Strassel also says that Obama's sleight-of-hand isn't limited to giving cap and trade a new look. She considers the push for clean energy merely a way to dupe Congressmen with districts that could benefit from a nuclear energy bump, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, or a clean coal endorsement, such as Sen. Dick Lugar, to sign on to the 2035 pledge. Strassel warns it would be an incredibly dumb move:
- It'll Work for Now Grist's David Roberts says he's onto Obama's tactic of sneaking in green policies under the cover of economic potential, but doesn't object. However, he is infuriated that people are confusing green energy with climate change policies. Roberts says the two are completely parallel agendas. Climate change is political, Roberts says, but green tech is economic. Furthermore, Roberts says these two have been running side by side and not gaining any ground because the market isn't demanding the cleaner energy and the energy suppliers aren't behind the green tech. Separating them makes political sense, but Roberts says the time for the divide is running out.