Obama’s Jobs Speech Shows Clean Energy Isn’t the “Cool Kid” Anymore

Well, one thing is for sure. Solyndra’s recent bankruptcy filing cemented the removal of the words “solar energy” from President Obama’s speech to Congress last night when he laid out his American Jobs Act. That is, if it was in there in the first place.

He didn’t even use the word “energy” in the speech although he did make mention of biofuels and fuel-efficient vehicles.

My guess is that the word “semiconductor” in this statement was supposed to say solar panels.

If we provide the right incentives, the right support — and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules — we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world.  That’s how America can be number one again.  And that’s how America will be number one again.

What he talked a lot about was how he was going to boost the America economy through tax relief, infrastructure investment and assistance for the long-term unemployed.

While more specific details of the American Jobs Act remain a mystery, some news outlets are reporting that part of the plan involves paying for the job growth measures through the repeal of oil and gas tax incentives. We’ll see how that works out.

And whether or not the deal will go through (many organizations are predicting that it won’t), it’s sad to me that the man that trumpeted a clean energy economy so wholeheartedly, quickly abandoned it for fear of political backlash.

Because the truth is that solar energy is creating jobs. Next month The Solar Foundation will release its second National Solar Jobs Census, which is expected to reveal that the industry employs 100,000 American workers, up from 93,000 last year.  We’ll be sure to get the scoop at Solar Power International when the census comes out.

Solar Fred blogged this week on RenewableEnergyWorld.com that “After Solyndra and Evergreen…We’re Still Here, Yo!” He reminded us in the post that:

Solyndra and Evergreen have simply joined the club of pharmaceuticals, oil and gas companies, coal plants, and ethanol plants that have received some type of government support and failed. And let’s not forget nuclear power plants that perpetually go over budget, requiring never-ending government support. Our government picks winners all the time, but sometimes the horse doesn’t even show.

He asked for solar companies to leave their names in the comments section to show just how many companies are in the industry.  If you have a solar company and you haven’t done it yet, please do so here.

In the end, relating to the speech, I was very encouraged to hear Obama get tough with Congress. I think he said, “You should pass this” 17 times or something. But as someone who works in the renewable energy industry, I couldn’t help but feel like the one everyone all of the sudden decides is the “out kid” in school.

Government investment in renewables will continue. Recent announcements of renewable energy funding touch on all clean energy technologies and all stages of development. It’s still a winning plan and I believe the U.S. government stands behind it.

I just wish they’d sit next to me, too.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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