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Joshua Keyak Headshot

The Speaker Is Orange, Can the President Be Green?

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Tuesday night, President Obama spoke about the economy, education, immigration, and how we need to improve. The United States is lagging behind other countries in several important areas. While these are all important there is one issue he spoke about for a few minutes that I'm going to focus on. I think by this point if you have read any of my posts you know what that is.

Obama said that the US needs to "Out-innovate... the rest of the world." The US is falling behind and something needs to be done about this. There were a few things he committed to, "1 million electric vehicles by 2015" "by 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources" and that he is going to ask "Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies."

Currently electric vehicles on U.S. roads number in the thousands. There are only a few options for US car buyers. While this is rapidly changing, and sales are on the rise, ultimately the purchase decision that is up to the American people. And unless there are given more incentives it will be hard to reach that goal. The handful of choices for Americans range drastically in price and design but there needs to be more options. I, for one, would opt for the Tesla Roadster, but it's just a bit out of my price range.

While it would be nice to reach his goal of 80% of electricity from clean energy sources we would need to make monumental changes to achieve that goal. The US gets over two-thirds of its electricity generation from fossil fuel sources. Less than 25% of our energy demands are met by nuclear power and that number will be shrinking as the last license that allowed a nuclear plant to be built was issued in 1973. Renewable electricity generation only accounts for just over 10% in the United States. Adding that with the nuclear generation it would only come to 30% of total generation. By adding in natural gas we get to about 54% of total generation. That's still far from the 80% that Obama wants in 24 years. In order to reach that goal we need to start building new clean power generation now. At the rate that energy demand is growing Congress needs to offer even more incentives to allow the clean energy sector to not only grow but also dominate the energy generation sector to make this come true.

Lastly, regarding his statement on asking Congress to "eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies." It pains me to say it but there is almost no chance that this would fly in a Democratically controlled Congress and this holds even more true when the House is controlled by the Republicans. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 passed the House with cuts in tax subsidies for oil companies but then when it got to the Senate that part was taken out and passed without it. As important as this is I doubt Congress will pass a bill that would do away with the subsidies. This is something that I would love to be proven wrong about but unfortunately we don't have enough real mavericks in congress to get such a thing done.

Is this our Sputnik moment? I hope so because it will take nothing less that an Apollo-esque program to accomplish these goals. While it may seem that this was fairly critical of what Obama said on this topic I still stand by him and know this is an issue he does care about. In order to accomplish all this he needs the full cooperation of Congress. America needs more members of Congress who acknowledge the vital importance of these issues and are willing to lead America into a cleaner greener future.

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