Obama speech calls for clean power boost, steers clear of climate

“Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen,” Obama will state, according to a copy of his remarks distributed by the White House ahead of the 9 p.m. speech.

The speech steers clear of a specific proposal, but comes as lawmakers including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have signaled that they’re open to a “clean” standard.

Many Democrats have long called for a more narrowly crafted utility standard that covers only renewable sources like wind and solar, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently signaled that the administration is open to a wider standard that credits other low-carbon sources.

Obama calls for continued investment in research and incentives for alternative fuels that curb reliance on oil, and other alternative energy sources, while pushing to become the first country that has 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015.

The president calls for funding green energy with increased tax revenues from the oil industry.

“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s,” Obama says.

However, past calls for paring back oil-and-gas industry incentives have been met with resistance from Republicans and oil-patch Democrats.

The speech says Obama's upcoming budget plan will invest heavily in green energy, apparently making an oblique reference to climate by referring to protecting the planet. "We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people," he says.

Tuesday’s speech may disappoint many environmentalists, who had pushed for Obama to offer a clear defense of EPA climate change regulations that are under attack from Republicans and some centrist Democrats.

The speech does not mention climate change or greenhouse gases, but does include a pledge to protect air quality.

Obama notes that he has ordered agencies to fix federal rules that burden business, but adds:

“I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.”

Andrew Restuccia contributed.

This post was updated at 9:32 p.m.