Obama Talks up Clean Energy, While Republican Response Nettles Scientists

By Eliza Strickland | February 25, 2009 3:32 pm

Obama joint sessionEnergy and environmental issues took center stage in President Barack Obama‘s first speech to a joint session of Congress last night. He asked Congress to send him legislation that would confront global warming by capping carbon dioxide emissions, and emphasized that clean energy technology can help the United States emerge from the recession.

Obama said: “It begins with energy. We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century…. Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders—and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again” [The New Republic]. He noted that the stimulus package includes significant investments in alternative energy research and development, as well as money for making buildings more energy efficient and upgrading the electrical grid. He also pledged to double the use of renewable energy and invest $15 billion dollars in the development of new technologies each year – including wind, solar, advanced biofuels, more fuel-efficient automobiles, and “clean coal” [Grist].

The Republican response to the speech was delivered by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who touched on energy policy as well. He stressed the importance of keeping energy prices down by increasing efficiency, boosting the use of alternative and nuclear energy, and expanding domestic oil and gas drilling. But he disagreed that the federal government should play a significant role in guiding these developments, saying that “if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence” [Washington Post].

Jindal aroused the ire of some science-focused commentators by critiquing one small part of the stimulus package as an example of “wasteful spending.” He said that the bill includes “$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC” [Washington Post], he said.

Some indignant pundits have noted that the relevant portion of the stimulus money is for “U.S. Geological Survey facilities and equipment, including stream gages [sic], seismic and volcano monitoring systems and national map activities.” It seems obvious that employing geologists, building facilities, buying equipment, and paying people to map the country all have a stimulative effect. But more importantly, why does Bobby Jindal think monitoring volcanoes is a bad thing for the government to be doing? [Mother Jones]

Related Content:
Bad Astronomy: Republican party *still* shilling antiscience?
80beats: Despite Economic Hard Times, Obama Promises Action on Global Warming

Image: The White House

  • Abraham

    There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. After a brief reprieve gas is inching back up. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV’s instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. http://www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com No one single factor affects our economy more or trickles down further than the high cost of fuel. This past year the high cost of fuel did serious damage to our economy and society. We shouldn’t allow other countries to have that much control over our economy. We need to become a nation that is totally energy independent.

  • aaron wenger

    Finally!!! A president who just may be able to understand science and technology’s possible impact upon world politics. Now if we can just get all the techies to mesh their efforts–not just nukes, not just wind, not just hydrogen, etc, etc and see instead that what we need is an energy backbone with many ribs. If we build about 50, 000 Mw of backbone electrical generation coupled to an expanding network of wind, solar, intelligent designed grids, we will be able to move 75% of our heating/AC and transportation energy usage off of any fossil fuel. In doing so we will change the world much more than can be done by any army.

    I come from a long line of republican voters. The republican lack of imagination/knowledge seems to be increasing over time. I don’t think that I would vote republican again–even for dog catcher!

  • Brian Mangravite

    Hello? This is supposed to be a STIMULUS PACKAGE. Jindal’s right to criticize “volcano monitoring”. As worthwhile an effort as it may be it doesn’t belong in a bill that is supposed to be stimulating the economy. And, no, I don’t buy that employing some geologists stimulates the economy. Oh, and by the way, Aaron, John McCain was calling for a complete gamut of alternative energy sources. While Obama is on tape saying he’d drive coal out of business. You’ll never get off foreign sources if you drive domestic sources out of business.

  • zach

    You don’t get how adding a number of high-paying jobs, large-scale construction projects, and developing new technologies stimulates the economy? You might want to sit and think about it for a few seconds then.

  • Brian Mangravite

    Thought about it, zach. We were discussing volcano monitoring, remember? Not large scale construction projects. But while we’re at it, no they don’t stimulate the economy. They provide jobs for the duration of the project then they go bye-bye. Stimulating the economy is done by encouraging new business, for example. Something that provides a job BEYOND the spending of the bill. 140 million to put a handful of geologists in a job will not stimulate the economy. Large scale construction, again, while possibly a necessary thing, might temporarily stimulate the economy. But it doesn’t CREATE a job, it just employs a bunch of overpriced union Obama supporters for the life of that particular project. Then it goes away. That doesn’t stimulate the economy.

  • blake

    I guess “stimulative” means anything that spends money on anything.

    If we are serious about alternative energy, we have to make the anti-nukes people realize that nuclear energy simply has to be a major part of that. Wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric just aren’t economical in enough places.

    Why does this article quote Mother Jones totally misunderstanding both a stimulus package and what Jindal’s complaint was? Wasn’t there someone a little more serious that could be quoted?

  • Daniel J. Andrew


    Perhaps you’d like to provide us with a link showing how many geologists support Obama? Since you think they’re overpaid, perhaps you could show us how much that is then. Be sure to compare them to other professions taking into account amount of training, schooling etc needed. Also show which union they belong to (thought I’d lob you an easy one so you don’t get discouraged). Demonstrate too that it doesn’t create jobs–obviously you know exactly how the money will be spent so this is another easy one. Perhaps you can demonstrate that patching up potholes and building bridges will actually create jobs…or are the majority of jobs for people who are already working in the construction industry–That “doesn’t CREATE a job, it just employees a bunch of overpriced union Bush supporters for the life of that particular project”.

    You might have been more credible if you’d not thrown in the “overpriced union Obama supporters” clause. As it is, you’ve let a political cloud your judgement (your main point could still be right, mind you, but with your bias and lack of supporting evidence you’re not exactly a reliable opinion).

    Perhaps you’re just a bit upset at Obama because he’s gone and thwarted your desire to own a pet monkey.


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