The State of the Union and Energy


Source: Vanity Fair

The president will address Congress and the American people this week in the State of the Union address and energy will once again be a key topic of discussion.  Looking back at the president’s annual speech over the past four years reveals a consistent message about the future of energy in the U.S.

In 2009, the president delivered his first State of the Union and spoke of a focus on more clean, renewable energy; increased energy efficiency of homes and businesses; and investment in energy infrastructure.  He also called for a market-driven carbon emissions cap and trade program and a commitment to double U.S. renewable energy production by 2012. [1]

The 2010 speech focused on a comprehensive energy/climate standard, while also calling for investments in next generation nuclear power, biofuels and clean coal.  The president also highlighted the impact the energy sector could have in adding jobs to the economy. [2]

President Obama’s 2011 address again hit on the need for a clean energy portfolio and delivered the ambitious goal of producing 80% of U.S. energy from clean sources by the year 2035.  Specific areas of investment mentioned included nuclear and biofuels.  The president also called for no more tax incentives for the oil industry saying, “instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.” [3]

The 2012 version focused on an “all of the above” energy strategy and a call for Congress to develop a national clean energy standard.  The president spoke of a strong commitment to renewables from the Department of Defense and an examination of the chemicals used in fracking.  Noticeably absent from the speech, however, was more funding for nuclear, clean coal and biofuels. [4]

Source: Current TV

Source: Current TV

A couple of news organizations have put together infographics that highlight the role of energy in the State of the Union address.  Current TV created an image of the top words used in each of President Obama’s annual speeches.  The 2012 version is displayed, but other years can be found here.  [5]

The Wall Street Journal has a tool that allows users to compare the frequency with which key words were used by each president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Tracking President Obama’s usage of the word energy over the past four years shows 14 mentions in 2009, 15 in 2010, 9 in 2011 and 23 in 2012.  That compares to President George W. Bush using the word between 2 and 13 times in his State of the Union addresses. [6]

So what can Americans expect to hear on Tuesday night?  It seems safe to bet on support for continued development of renewable energy and a need to address climate change.  There will also be a plug for the ‘hot’ energy source of the day similar to clean coal, nuclear and biofuels in 2010 and 2011.  What energy topics do you think he should mention?











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2 responses to “The State of the Union and Energy

  1. sheenamathew33

    Its interesting to see what President Obama has prioritized and emphasized over the years regarding energy. I’ve never seen anything like the image Current TV made, its a great visual representation of what President Obama’s focus is on. Its no surprise that discussion about energy has generally increased over the years. It definitely seems like we will hear about the steps that need to be taken to bring economic stability/security to the middle class. The president will discuss climate change and he should promote investing in clean energy programs to help stimulate more research and development for cost effective clean energy. I’m interested to hear how he will tie energy into his agenda this year.

  2. I thought the state of the union address this past week was a more revealing look at the president’s agenda. Since this is his last term, he is no longer under the constraints of re-election and has the freedom to push his true vision for energy policy in America. I liked the framing of your post as a timeline because it shows how his energy policy has progressed throughout his term as president. What I found interesting was that early in his career, he focused more clean energy with an emphasis on the jobs it could provide. This makes sense in order to sell clean energy to a country just recovering from an economic crisis. In later addresses, the role of climate change linked with energy became more and more prominent. It seems that he wants to gear the energy discussion so that it goes hand in hand with climate change. I think this is a great approach because it helps tackle two problems at the same time. I’m definitely look forward to what his last term holds for energy in our country.

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