Coal in his stocking ….

I didn’t watch the State of the Union speech last week, so I’ve been catching up on it by watching clips and reading transcripts. The pundits have spoken and written and given their deep analysis of the speech, including Chris Matthews’ ultimate display of white privilege:  “Gosh, for a moment there I even forgot he was black.”

One area that I hadn’t really heard much comment on was on environmental issues. Historically, Presidents vow in their SOTU speech to fund new renewable energy technologies, and solve our nation’s energy problem. But of course, after the speech is over the funding just never happens. I didn’t expect President Obama to do much more than that, but I was really shocked to read this statement he made:

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

If anyone had any hope that President Obama would finally turn this country’s priorities around and start looking seriously at renewable energy as a real and viable source of energy independence for this nation, that should pretty much clear it up. To President Obama, “clean energy” includes nuclear energy (but just ask the good people of Vermont how “clean” that energy is), offshore oil and gas drilling (can you say “oil spill”?), and that all-time favorite: “clean coal technology.”

It would have been nice to hear a mention of solar, geothermal, or wind energy. But alas. That’s not where the money is, is it? The money is with the coal industry, and that’s why this farce of a theory of clean coal continues. “Theory, you say, Sue J.?” Yes — the technology behind making clean coal work doesn’t exist yet. The “theory” is that the coal-produced carbon dioxide will be pumped into the ground rather than into the atmosphere. That sounds safe, doesn’t it? Well, we don’t really know if it can be done yet, but there’s certainly a lot of money to be made in the trying! And a group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is at the head of the line with their hands outstretched waiting for that government funding:

But ACCCE has faith. It doesn’t argue that [carbon capture and storage] CCS can solve coal’s environment problems. If it did, it might have to defend its case. Instead, it says “we believe that American can continue to make great progress in improving environmental quality while at the same time enjoying the benefits from using domestic energy sources like coal … In a word: we believe in technology.” Good for them, but technologists generally rely on more than faith.

In these times, when there are so many urgent issues on the forefront, some would say we can only handle so many new initiatives at once. So “clean coal,” which uses something we Americans have loved for generations (coal), sounds so appealing. Solar is so scary. Wind has those big turbines. (Except that technology has meant smaller ones can be installed in all kinds of places, even in cities).

He said change. That means discontinuing the harmful and short-sighted policies of the past and trying new things. And it means being able to work on multiple issues at once. If he can’t multi-task, why did he run for president?



  1. And as for that “clean” nuclear energy:

    “The discovery of radioactive tritium at a Vermont nuclear plant brings to at least 27 the number of tainted U.S. reactors. That means more than one-fourth of all reactors in the United States have tritium leaks.”

  2. I watched the entire speech and had conflicting feelings afterwards.
    I was reminded how erudite and scholarly he was, which I found reassuring. I also liked his humility.
    On the other hand, I noticed his speech was crafted to appeal to everyone, even people whose priorities are totally fucked up.
    Nuclear power plants and the oxymoronic term “clean coal” technology are not my idea of good energy sources. I can’t believe he spewed that nonesense out so effortlessly.
    He threw out a lot of bones, but I only wanted to gnaw upon a few of them. I wish he’d remember who elected him.

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