In his State of the Union address in January—his last high-profile joint session address to Congress—President Obama mentioned the word “energy” nine different times. In last night’s jobs speech, also before both congressional chambers, the word didn’t leave his mouth. That begs the question: Is Obama done with his green jobs push? And also, what’s the president losing by not focusing on the energy sector at all?
According to ClimateWire, rather than pushing his green agenda aside completely, Obama might just want to tackle one political hurdle at a time, and jobs is the obstacle du jour. The contentious issue of energy, with strong advocates on both Team Drill, Baby, Drill and Team Save the Planet, would have added even more barriers to a jobs plan that already seems like a tough sell in Congress.
Asked if Obama should have included clean energy, Democratic Sen. John Kerry agreed with this theory. “No, I think the president did the things he feels the Congress can pass,” he said, according to ClimateWire. “And he’s looking to get things on the table that don’t really create traditional, gridlocked ideological struggle.”
Also, by not even touching energy in his speech—apart from a dig at tax loopholes for oil companies—he seemed to do enough to win at least mild approval from environmentalists on the left. After all, doing nothing about energy is a stark contrast with Republicans, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose jobs plans push for less environmental regulations and greater expediency for oil and gas drilling and coal production. “President Obama has presented a real plan to get Americans back to work—unlike Republican leaders in Congress whose so-called jobs agenda would destroy our environmental and health safeguards,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “The next step is to build on the president’s plans by fully embracing clean energy jobs.”
Not to mention, there’s that whole ordeal over the solar company Solyndra, whose recent bankruptcy after receiving federal loan guarantees through the Recovery Act has stuck a wrench in any future argument for clean energy stimulus.
But, there’s a chance that Obama’s apparent political concerns might cost him, or at the very least, it could cost America jobs. Republicans and industry advocates have consistently spouted the jobs potential in the energy sector, on which the president might be missing out. “The president missed an opportunity to pick the low-hanging fruit of job creation,” said American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard in a statement. “Allowing the responsible development of more of America’s vast domestic oil and natural gas resources could generate more than one million new jobs in just seven years, with thousands of shovel-ready jobs that could be created almost immediately.”