On the bright side, Obama didn’t talk about exploiting America’s reserves of oil and natural gas. And one of his examples of entrepreneurial role models was some guys building solar panels. But those were about the only bright spots environmentally speaking in the State of the Union address.
Interestingly, there wasn’t a word about conservation, something that Obama has rightly emphasized in the past. That’s understandable: In a society whose economy is driven by how much we consume — effectively, how wasteful we are — conservation is a tough sell when employment is high. With unemployment officially at 10 percent (and in reality much higher), talk about burning less gas and cutting down fewer trees would have gone over only slightly better for Obama than hocking a loogie into a presidential-seal coffee mug.
Still, it’s distressing. His most concrete proposal in “green” terms was one about putting a million electric cars on the road. Electric cars are a very expensive way to, if all goes well, do a little less damage in the way we get ourselves from here to there. Even if the million-cars goal were achievable in his time frame — and it’s probably not — I can’t get excited about something that’s going to have us guzzling more electricity, especially if that electricity is likely to come from fossil fuel (which, at the rate we’re going, it is).
Even worse was the latest nod to “clean coal,” which is a myth-and-half and a dangerous distraction from the very important task of drastically reducing (and eventually eliminating) our consumption of this dirtiest of fuels. Perpetuating the canard of clean coal only prevents us from the only sane goals: reducing energy use and developing renewable sources to power what we truly can’t do without.