Last night the President gave one of the better State of the Union speeches in recent memory. In contrast to prior years, where the President went through a laundry list of things he does or doesn’t like followed by half of Congress rising in exuberant ovation and the other half huffing and puffing while sitting on their hands, this year’s speech was well received by most spectators in the chamber and focused on a single over arching theme: How does America Win the Future?
These days, it seems that people are more afraid of China taking American jobs and displacing this country’s place as the leader of the world’s economy than they are of terrorists hijacking airplanes. Unlike a lot of fears we all hold dear - this one is quite warranted.
At the heart of President Obama’s vision for America is a belief that the innovation, ingenuity and spirit that propelled us to the top of the 20th century remains unmatched in the world. We have shown that in the most perilous times, all we need to do to achieve something, is decide to achieve it. In answering this generation’s Sputnik moment, the President called for this country to set a national target of 80% renewable energy by 2035. Many out there may think this is unrealistic or more of the same job-killing tree hugging rhetoric from a liberal administration.
As it stands, I don’t know if it is achievable.
But one thing is for certain, if we don’t do it, someone else will. And if you think Americans hate losing their jobs to China – imagine how upset they will be when they depend on China for their energy needs.
As we speak, China is the world’s leading exporter of solar panels and is rapidly taking over the wind and LED industries. While our elected leaders were busy arguing whether or not we should be subsidizing clean energy, if the EPA is constitutional or if climate change is even real – the rest of the world moved full speed ahead in financing and fostering the industries that will one day power our planet. It may not happen by 2035, or 2085 for that matter, but it will happen. And when it does, we can either be at the forefront of technology or find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having replaced a dependency on foreign oil with a dependency on foreign solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and semiconductors.
So how do we get there? I don’t have all the answer, but certainly a lot of things have to change.
We must stop decrying the construction of offshore wind farms because they might ruin the view (the Kennedy’s and everyone on Martha’s Vineyard – you know who you are); stop clinging to spoils of yesterday’s energy technologies (the distinguished gentlemen from West Virginia and Gulf Coast states – you know who you are); and perhaps most importantly, accept that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the majority of bankers at Goldman Sachs might have to pay higher taxes.
If not – well, at least it was a good speech. I’m sure China will ship everything with English instructions anyway.