Obama chides Congress for failing to pass ‘clean energy standard’

“The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change,” Obama said in the third State of the Union address of his presidency, according to his prepared remarks.

“But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.  So far, you haven’t acted.”

During last year’s State of the Union address, Obama pressed Congress to pass a clean energy standard that would require electric utilities to generate 80 percent of their power from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, natural gas and nuclear by 2035.

Acknowledging that a clean energy standard faces major opposition in Congress, Obama said Tuesday night that his administration would act on its own to promote renewable energy.

“I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes,” Obama said, adding that the Navy would purchase enough renewable energy capacity to power 250,000 homes a year.

At the same time, Obama called on Congress to pass energy efficiency legislation to “help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings.”

The president also touted the investments his administration has already made in clean energy.

“Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled,” he said. “And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.”

Shortly after last year’s address, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) took on the responsibility of crafting a clean energy standard.

Bingaman reached out to the Energy Department’s statistical arm, the Energy Information Administration, to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on various versions of the proposal.

But there is little appetite in Congress for a clean energy standard, a political reality that Bingaman acknowledged last year.

“It’s hard to see how we get the votes to pass it,” Bingaman said in October. “I think my effort has been to try to be sure that we do the best job we can of getting a clean-energy standard designed in a way that would be good policy. We’ve taken pains to do that. That’s why we haven’t rushed to introduce a bill.”

Bingaman has said he will introduce a clean-energy standard early this year.