Green

Giving clean energy an American makeover

In American politics, energy and the environment are rocky issues. So when President Obama called this week for the U.S. to run on 80 percent clean energy by 2035, he couched it in terms that this capitalistic, economically anxious nation know best: Money and jobs.

In a press call yesterday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu reiterated Obama’s message, giving sign of how the administration will position the president’s clean energy plans politically.

“This is wealth creation,” Chu said.

In his speech, Obama made no mention of climate change. Instead, he couched energy goals in terms of making America competitive globally in a market that attracted $243 billion in investment worldwide last year.

Obama’s plan entails eliminating oil subsidies, a measure that has failed in the past. Major energy legislation has also struggled, but Chu pushed for a uniting theme that sidestepped the skepticism on global warming and environmental impact.

“This is the future of our economic prosperity… the driving reason can be any reason you choose,” Chu said, pointing to jobs, making money, saving money and saving the environment as a few of many motivators.

The repositioning of alternative energy also touched on a keystone of American anxiety about competing globally as countries like China rise (and are investing in major ways in cleantech).

“Around the world, countries are moving aggressively to lead the clean energy race,” Chu said. “We cannot take leadership and innovation for granted. This is a race.”

If the rebranding of clean energy as wealth and jobs creation goes off successfully, it could help push forward political support on measures that have been difficult to pass. Of course, execution is everything, but the state of the union speech has repositioned energy legislation into a more hopeful place than it was before.