On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union, and the first with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress.
When referring to the energy sector, Obama mainly focused on his climate change plan.
“No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. That's why, over the past six years, we've done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it,” Obama said. "I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement - the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world's two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we've got.”
Mike Duncan, president and chief operating officer of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) said Obama’s speech on climate change left more questions than answers.
“President Obama failed to offer answers about the calamitous consequences of his environmental regulations. Rather than seek a commonsense energy plan for America, President Obama bypassed Congress and is forging ahead with his climate crusade at the expense of the nation’s economic security,” Duncan said.
On the same day as President Obama’s address, ACCCE launched a new campaign that highlights cost and reliability implications from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s regulations, including the Clean Power Plan. ACCCE said that a recent study showed significant negative economic impacts from the Clean Power Plan, including double-digit electricity cost increases for 43 states, compliance costs totaling $366 billion or more and less reliable electricity as a result of widespread coal retirements.
During the State of the Union, Obama failed to address the recent coal retirements, but rather touted the increase in domestic energy production.
"We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet,” Obama said. “Today, America is No. 1 in oil and gas. America is No. 1 in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.”
The boom in domestic energy, Obama noted, significantly added to the number of jobs that have been created.
“Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999,” he said. “Over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn't even exist ten or twenty years ago - jobs at companies like Google, and eBay and Tesla."
The president didn’t miss an opportunity, however, to take a crack at the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
"Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure - modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet,” Obama said. "Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline."
During the Keystone jab, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, held his appalause and later said Obama's economic initiatives weren't just "the wrong policies, they're the wrong priorities: growing Washington's bureaucracy instead of America's economy.” In the Republican response to the State of the Union, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said her party was working to support the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which she said would create jobs and address the country’s energy needs.
Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, agreed with Obama’s pipeline statement but said the president fell short of addressing the significance of climate change.
“When it comes to the climate crisis, the President knows the stakes, and tonight, he underscored the urgency of the problem and his commitment to climate action for our children’s future,” Brune said. "To meet the greatest challenge of our generation, we can and we must end our dependence not just on foreign oil, but all fossil fuels. We can indeed set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”
Before wrapping up his address, the president called on Congress to address cybersecurity issues with new legislation.
"No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism,” Obama said. "I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children's information. If we don't act, we'll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.”
On the topic of regulations, Obama said he will submit a budget to Congress filled with “practical” ideas within the next two weeks. In the coming months, he will make his way across the country speaking about the ideas in the budget.