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State of the Union and Green Entrepreneurship

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While mainstream environmental groups cheered the President's State of the Union, many climate activists and bloggers are pissed -- the speech included no specifics about what he wants in a climate bill, and the laundry list of "clean energy jobs" had nuclear, oil, coal and biofuels, but strangely didn't mention clean energy or energy efficiency. "What we needed was a call to arms, and what we got was a kick in the face," one blogger complained.

MoveOn.Org had an instant dial application for members to rate how they felt throughout the speech, and the nukes-oil-coal section was the least popular part of the speech, even more unpopular than sending more troops to Afghanistan! The President's reaffirmation of his commitment to pass a climate bill this year is encouraging, but it's going to be hard to mobilize the activist base to whip the needed votes with this kind of ... stuff. Sigh.

But from the standpoint of an aspiring green entrepreneur, there was an awful lot to like in the speech. This was the jobs speech it needed to be, and it continued what may be the overarching theme of his presidency, "to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth." [see a piece I wrote on this last May] But more than any speech we've heard from him before, he put clean energy jobs at the absolute center of his job creation strategy, mentioning clean energy 10 times, solar twice and climate change 3 times. His discussion of U.S. competitiveness in the global economy is entirely framed in the context of the race to develop clean energy technologies.

But beyond the importance of this rhetorical shift and the clear signal on passing a climate bill this year are three new proposals rolled out this week designed to help small businesses access credit, increase exports and help young people go to college.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax credit - one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.

So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security."

let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after twenty years - and forgiven after ten years if they choose a career in public service.

While still not nearly enough to catalyze the transition to a clean energy economy, to deliver on his campaign promise to create 5 million new green jobs, these are important steps in the right direction.

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