President Obama gave his weekly address on Saturday on “Solar Power & a Clean Energy Economy.”

Here’s the transcript.

The most notable aspect of this is the pedestrian policy goal being served by the soaring rhetoric. Obama says of clean energy: “It was essential — for our economy, our security, and our planet — that we finally tackle this challenge.” And because it was so essential, we … extended some tax breaks, proportionately a fraction of the resources being directed at clean energy industries in other developed economies.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The rub is that even those tax incentives, which are to tackling the climate/energy challenge what walking to the fridge is to marathon training, are in danger. Even this slingshot fired at the status quo is too much for Republicans to bear, so they’re on the warpath.

Here’s the wind energy industry’s growth with and without the tax incentive program (click for larger version):

WRI: net annual installed wind power capacity in the US, 98-09

See those dips, where federal support dropped out, uncertainty reigned, and investors hoarded their money? Republicans want to make those dips, and that uncertainty, permanent. This is not only perverse on economic and environmental grounds, it flies in the face of decades of public opinion in favor of clean energy. It ought to be unpopular!

But this election isn’t about policy, an arena wherein Americans trust Democrats over Republicans on virtually every issue:

Simply put, in the NEWSWEEK Poll, voters said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle pretty much every problem currently facing the country: Afghanistan (by 6 points), health care (by 12), immigration (by 2, though that figure is within the margin of error), Social Security (by 14), unemployment (by 12), financial reform (by 14), energy (by 19), and education (by 19). Voters even prefer Democrats to Republicans on federal spending (by 4 points), taxes (by 5), and the economy (by 10)—the GOP’s core concerns. The only area where Republicans outpoll Democrats is the issue of terrorism, where they lead by a 6-point margin.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This election is not a rejection of Democratic policy, energy or otherwise. Nor is it an embrace of the same tired Republican agenda:

It’s just a crappy year to be in charge, mired as the country is in sluggish economic recovery, high unemployment, and anti-incumbent sentiment. It so happens that voters’ desperate and understandable need for change is going to lead to policy that they would soundly reject were it put to them directly. The ironies of oligarchic democracy.