Climate and energy in 2016 State of the Union

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016.  The White House has posted his remarks as prepared for delivery to Congress.  Climate change, and related energy and environmental issues, formed a prominent theme in this year's speech.

The White House.

Climate change first surfaced in the 2016 State of the Union as part of one of four "big questions" President Obama posed for the nation.
Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
After announcing a "moonshot" medical research effort to cure cancer to be led by Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama said, "We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources."

He then spent several minutes addressing climate change directly.  First, he noted effective consensus that climate change is a topic worth tackling:
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
He then touted the economic and environmental effects of investment in renewable and distributed generation and energy storage:
But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy -- something, by the way, that environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. And meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.
Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.
President Obama then called for changes to transition to clean energy sources:
Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.
Now, none of this is going to happen overnight. And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve. And it's within our grasp.
Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.
His final reference to climate change came while discussing international engagement, and "seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security":
When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids.
Climate, energy, and environmental issues thus featured prominently in the 2016 State of the Union speech.  Over the coming year, these themes -- domestic and international action on climate change, investment in renewable energy and distributed generation, transition away from oil and coal -- will likely continue to play out at the federal level.

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