Here are the key talking points the White House sent around with the speech:

  • This economic and environmental tragedy underscores the urgent need for this nation to embrace a clean energy future.  For years, there has been little more than lip service given to the need to end our reliance on fossil fuels.  That failure to move forward with innovative energy policies is evidenced by the Gulf spill. Now it is time to act with the urgency that this challenge requires.
  • This Administration has taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry – from the largest-ever investment in basic research to financial support for innovative “green” businesses to aggressive new national fuel standards.  These actions must be matched by a comprehensive plan that transitions the United States to a 21st century clean-energy economy.  We must not continue to be tied down by old approaches to harnessing energy resources.
  • The House of Representatives has passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate – developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans – that would achieve similar goals. And the President is committed to working with anyone from either party to get this done, because the cost of inaction to our economy, our national security, and our environment is too great.

The speech itself was not quite so crystal clear.

Now I will credit him for the fact that this was a big oval office speech, and he does spell out the urgent need to end our addiction to fossil fuels.  But he can do better  than pulling punches, especially on climate, as this one does.  We’ll see if he’s serious about his words in the coming days if he personally lobbies Senators – especially Democrats.

What did you think?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Here are the key lines from the speech:


For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.  For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight.  Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America.  Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil.  And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

We cannot consign our children to this future.  The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.  Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America.  The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.  As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.  Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient.  Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us.  As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition.  Only if we seize the moment.  And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence.  Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition.  And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

What Obama might have said is that the plan doesn’t even start until 2013, so it hardly threatens the recovery.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.  Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks.  Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power.  Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead.  But the one approach I will not accept is inaction.  The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.  You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II.  The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.  And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.  Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children.  Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like.  Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there.  We know we’ll get there.

I give him a B.  The talking points are more like an A-.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!