I just finished watching the State of the Union address, and man, that was intense. Of course, with all the political tension in the air right now, environmental issues tend to get pushed to the back burner. Fortunately, Obama seemed to make environmentalism, at least green energy, a big concern for the next two years. Calling the race to regain technological superiority this generation's "Sputnik moment," the president seemed committed to funding green technology as part of a pragmatic approach to help the economy.
Among Obama's Promises:
-give 80% of Americans access to high-speed railways by 2036
- have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015
- eliminate subsidies to oil companies to fund green technology
- obtain 80% of American energy from clean power by 2035
These goals recall a hope for the future that has been more than a little muddied these last two years. However, their loftiness demands that definitive action be taken to achieve them, action that cannot be taken at a podium, but must be achieved through –dare I say it– bi-partisanship.
The obstacles to making these promises a reality are numerous. The Republican response, delivered by Congressman Paul Ryan, decried big government and wanted less intervention and spending. Leaders on both sides are more focused on curtailing the deficit and making cuts than investing more in new technology. However, hopefully the new sense of cooperation seen tonight will prevail into actual legislating, and meaningful measures can be drafted to turn rhetoric into reality.
Although Obama talked about clean energy and innovation, there was little talk of other facets of environmentalism. Relatively little time was spent talking about foreign affairs, let alone environmental affairs outside of the domestic domain. It looks like, for the time being, environmentalism in Washington will be built not from idealism, but from pragmatism. As long as the promises made tonight can be followed through on, that's nothing to scoff at.
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