Energy was certainly on the agenda during President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address. “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy,” he stated, while opening up the energy discussion.

His strategy includes exploiting America’s limited oil reserves and also expanding natural gas extraction. However, with commendable foresight, he acknowledged that these resources are finite and emphasized the need to continue government support of clean energy technologies like wind and solar while removing support from the already prosperous oil industry.

“We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough,” he stated. “It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits.”

To justify the subsidization of clean energy, President Obama used natural gas extraction as an example. He stated that “…it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock –- reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”

Furthermore, he encouraged citizens to think long-term, noting the example of natural gas as proof that “…the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail.”

This is no doubt an allusion to the highly publicized failure of the government subsidized solar module manufacturer Solyndra. It is clear from the president’s statement that he sees such failures as inevitable on the road of technological development and he is certainly correct.

Despite this failure, he remains unperturbed, pledging not to “…walk away from the promise of clean energy.”

-Erik Janssen

(Engineering Physics, MASc, Year 2 at McMaster University)

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A full transcription of his address can be found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/24/us/politics/state-of-the-union-2012-video-transcript.html

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