Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The President's Speech before Congress

Tonight was the equivalent of the State of the Union Message from President Obama, giving us a preview of what we can expect in his major programs over the next year. Energy forms one of the three major thrusts of this initiative, but this is very much a technology oriented Administration,
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.
And the most critical problems?
We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before.
Survival is a rather strong word, and yet it is realistically true. And his focus for the application of the money included
More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector - jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Much of this will have an energy impact, and has been addressed in the Stimulus package, and now we will have to wait and see how this will play out. (Judging from one or two phone calls I have had recently I am not the only one trying to work this out).

The segment of the speech that addressed energy in the budget was first of the three priorities (as he ranked it during the debates).
Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history - an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

Towards the end of his speech he drew attention to the presence of the mayor of Greensburg, Kansas
I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community - how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."
The website for the town is a blog that shows some of the creative things that they are doing, such as recycling some of the 87,000 truckloads of broken concrete that had to be hauled away after the tornado. It is going for such things as foundation and walls, lowering the carbon footprint since it has already been made. (Cement requires a lot of heat in the manufacture). Though they also have a post on building houses with natural materials that includes straw bales.

In response the Republican Governor Bobby Jindal spoke of lowering taxes as being a better way of stimulating the economy and mentioned some of the waste in the stimulus package including
It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.
Well as I seem to remember reading that the Maglev train is not a done deal. President Obama wanted that piece in the legislation, and may have other targets for it other than the link (which is favored by Senate Majority Leader Reid).
Also in the running are proposed high-speed corridors in the Northeast, the Northwest, Florida and the South.
In regard to the volcano monitoring, those who remember Mount St Helens, which erupted in May, 1980 may not be aware that the lava dome has rebuilt, and in 2005 threw a plume seven miles into the air. The whole ring of fire that forms the West Coast of the United States is vulnerable, including places such as Yellowstone, and the damage can be much worse than that from an Earthquake. It should also be remembered that President Obama is likely familiar with some of the damage from an erupting volcano, albeit on another island.

Turning to the energy debate Governor Jindal had this to say
To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump - and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation … increase energy efficiency … increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels … increase our use of nuclear power - and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything - and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.
I still remain unconvinced that either of them understand either the scale or the imminence of the problem. In this they are probably totally reliant on their advisors for knowledge, and with all the other financial issues, the energy program may not move forward as fast as it otherwise might. But as one of the commentators said on ABC News after the speech words to the effect: “It will be interesting to see, a year from now, how much has changed.”

On a small personal note, after watching the two speeches, the Actress and I sat and watched the promotional DVD we got from our local Ford dealer on the new Fusion Hybrid. I have been very happy with my Camry Hybrid over the last year, and since it is now the Actress that is seeking a new vehicle, on the advice of Robert Rapier’s blog we are checking this one out. I will keep you updated as the decision approaches, and after we get whatever we do. Somehow I doubt it will be an Aptera but the Fusion Hybrid is quite a possibility.


  1. There's a short article on the $8 billion for rail at http://tiny.cc/TEJBc with a focus on the plans for a highspeed network.