President Barack Obama championed an “all-out, all-of-the-above strategy” in Tuesday’s State of the Union address to develop all U.S. energy sources, though his focus rested on renewables and natural gas—with no mention of coal or nuclear power.

In his speech, the president called on Congress to approve tax cuts for U.S. manufacturers and financial assistance for new plants, equipment and training, saying, “nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than American-made energy.” Claiming the country had over the past three years opened “millions” of new acres for oil and gas exploration, Obama directed his administration to open more than 75% of potential offshore oil and gas resources.

“Last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. But with only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy,” he said, pausing for applause. “A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”

Federal Incentives Have Been Successful

The president’s speech did not mention coal or nuclear power, inciting some backlash from industry coal group the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). “The State of the Union address was most notable for what was left unsaid, namely any mention of coal—America’s dominant source of electricity—in the President’s plan for our nation’s energy future,” said ACCCE President and CEO Steve Miller in a statement today. “It is inconceivable that we can reach our shared national goals of creating jobs, rebuilding U.S. manufacturing and keeping energy affordable for our families and businesses without domestically-produced coal playing a central role.”

Obama’s strategy included directing his administration to “take every possible action to safely” develop the 100-year U.S. natural gas supply, though he stressed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would require companies drilling for gas on public lands to disclose chemicals used. He also defended hotly criticized subsidies from the Department of Energy (DOE), saying “it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock—reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”

Since Obama took the presidency, the U.S. government and the private sector have “positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries,” the president claimed, adding that federal investments had also spurred a doubling of renewable energy use.

“Our experience with shale gas, our experience with natural gas, shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away,” he cautioned, however. “Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.”

Future Energy Policy

Partisan politics have obstructed passage of a comprehensive plan to fight climate change, but Obama said he saw “no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.”

“So far, you haven’t acted,” he told members of both the House and Senate. “Well, tonight, I will. I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes.” Among other measures, the federal government—and particularly the Department of Defense, which is the world’s largest consumer of energy—will step up its commitment to use clean energy.

Obama also said he would, in the next few weeks, sign an executive order clearing red tape that slows down construction projects, including new power projects and improvements to the power grid.

Focus on Righting Unfair Trade Practices

One setback for American clean energy technology manufacturers is that they are battling unfair trade practice by nations such as China, the president said, declaring, “It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.”

The president vowed to level the playing field by creating a Trade Enforcement Unit charged with investigating unfair trading practices and called for more inspections to prevent “counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders.” Obama will also seek a program to provide credit to companies competing against foreign counterparts that benefit from heavy subsidies from their governments.

“I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration—and it’s made a difference,” he said.

Sources: POWERnews, The White House