Regardless of whether or not you are an ardent fan of President Obama or among his harshest critics, you would be hard pressed to deny this man’s undeniable gifts as an orator. Last night’s State of the Union Address saw Obama doing what he does best, making an eloquent speech that not only outlined numerous policies but included a  firm scolding of both  the Democrats and Republicans seated before him. The President even squeezed in a few well-placed zingers to punctuate certain points and to take the wind out of the sails of certain naysayers,  stating, “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.” as he addressed Environmental issues during his State of the Union Address.

Even with a peppering of comic relief, Obama’s discussing of his future approach towards clean energy left many environmentalist without a smile on their face. The State of the Environmental Union was a mixed bag at best. Here are the highlights, lowlights and “What?“ lights of the President’s speech, from an environmental perspective.

The Good:

“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities–and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient–which supports clean energy jobs.” 

“…it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year,. And this year I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.” 

President Obama smartly outlined  the importance of green energy through the lens of economic recovery. Touting Green Energy as an industry that could create jobs, and therefore an industry that should be encouraged,  Obama touches on how these changes could be implemented through tactics such as rebates to encourage energy efficiency among American Citizens. Obama’s praise of congress for passing the Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009 and gentle encouragement of both parties in the Senate to follow suit, highlights actual action that is being taken towards this environmentally responsible behavior. While the bill, which focuses on a cap and trade system wherein limits are set for greenhouse emissions, is supported by many environmentalists, it also has its fair share of critics, ranging from those who claim that the bill is not radical enough to those who believe that it is too radical. 

 I believe that at the very least, this shows that this administration is being proactive when it comes to addressing environmental issues, but what has myself and others worried is the amount of concessions that seem to be filtering into these policies under the guise of promoting bipartisan politics. Which brings us to…

The Not So Good:

“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives” 

So far so good, I can get behind incentives and jobs and green energy, continue, Mr. President.

“And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means  making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.”

(Record screeching)… “Say what!?”, me.

(Enthusiastic applause)- Congress.

What happened to harnessing the awesome power of the wind? Nuclear power  has never been so directly addressed by President Obama as a viable option for renewable energy as it was last night.  There is much debate over the nuclear power’s qualifications as a renewable energy source, with critics pointing out that from the harnessing of uranium to the construction of nuclear power sites, that this form of energy is hardly carbon neutral. This mention coupled with the shout out to offshore drilling seem to paint a picture of a President willing to make concessions in order to encourage bipartisan participation on the creation of a economically beneficial green economy. 

Whether or not these concessions will result in an end that justifies the means remains to be seen. President Obama, in one short statement ,seems to have leaned even further towards the middle. These compromises may backfire-alienating eco-minded individuals wondering if the environment is really the best area to make compromises on and could also lead  republicans to believe that  they can make Obama bend to their insistences as fast as they can utter, “Tea Party!”

Despite the bitter sweetness of President Obama’s State of the Green Union, one can only hope that he knows what he is doing and that his gamble will pay off. Hopefully, the Green economy the President foresees will become a reality throughout the remainder of his term as Commander-in-Chief.. As he said, “The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. American must be that nation.”  The economy and the environment are both suffering and perhaps the president is correct, their futures are intertwined and the only way either can flourish is with the help of the other. As sad as it may be, if Green energy is not profitable it will not be embraced by the majority of American citizens or its politicians. 

-Meghan Hurley