The State of the Union Address Called for a New Generation of American Greatness — but Overlooked a Key Solution

During his rousing State of the Union address last night, President Trump struck a forward-looking tone, asking American citizens and urging our leaders to “choose greatness.” He signaled an intent to pursue commonsense policies that members of both parties can support and called on all legislators to adopt a spirit of cooperation and compromise.

To that end, three main areas of concern the President identified in his speech included supporting American workers, rebuilding our infrastructure, and strengthening national security. These are commendable goals that must be matched with tangible solutions to achieve progress.

Yet, in a speech lasting 82 minutes and over 5,200 words, the president only mentioned the word “energy” twice. This is a bit surprising because investments in clean energy development, in particular, have been proven to have a profound impact on precisely those three areas:

American workers.  In 2016, American clean energy employment officially surpassed three million workers across industries including solar, wind, and hydropower. Clean energy jobs now outnumber fossil fuel jobs in 41 states, and renewable energy is creating jobs at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy. In terms of return on investment, clean energy seems to be perhaps the single best way to support workers.

Rebuilding our infrastructure. Few components of America’s infrastructure are as in need of rebuilding as the electric grid. Most of it was built out over the first half of the 20th Century through a complex patchwork system of regional and local power plants, lines, and transformers. Its condition varies widely, which is a problem because it is also too centralized, making it extremely vulnerable. Upgrading and modernizing this infrastructure—to include microgrids, update transmission lines, integrate renewables, and optimize efficiency through innovations in energy storage—is long overdue.

Protecting national security.  The U.S. now ranks #1 in the world in total energy production. An all-of-the-above approach to energy helped put America on top just a few years ago, and investment in clean energy innovation is helping to add to this advantage every day. Consider the fact that three of the next five highest-ranking energy producers include Russia, China, and Iran, who are often hostile to America, or that the world’s largest proven oil reserves are in Venezuela, which is currently undergoing massive political upheaval. If we depended on any of those countries for our energy, how secure would we be?

During the first half of his Administration, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have often recognized the importance of energy as demonstrated by their support of tax credits for clean energy projects and strong federal funding of research and innovation.

Although the President did not address clean energy last night, we are hopeful he and Republican leaders in Congress will follow the lead of voters and commit to a plan that makes sense for America’s climate and clean energy needs. For example, a voluntary federal framework for carbon reporting and an offset exchange will empower states, municipalities, and businesses to decrease emissions while increasing investment in clean energy and improving transparency and accountability.

If last night’s call for unity and a new generation of American greatness is answered, such things may be possible in the 116th Congress.

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