What a difference a year makes. When Barack Obama faced Congress for his State of the Union address last year, the Democrats had their largest majority in decades, a comprehensive climate and energy bill still seemed possible, and the Deepwater Horizon rig was just weeks away from starting to drill that well in the Gulf of Mexico.
One thing hasn't changed, though: Americans are worried about jobs. And, once again jobs will undoubtedly be a big part of Obama's speech. This year the president has an excellent opportunity to cheer the nation, to assure Americans that a prosperous future is on the horizon. Tomorrow night, he can describe how, thanks to good old American ingenuity, plenty of good jobs are already being generated by the development of wind, solar, and other new energy sources.
Last year, he failed miserably on that score. When he did talk about energy, his list of proposed energy initiatives sounded like an attempt to placate the opposition: nuclear power, "clean" coal, biofuels, and increased off-shore drilling.
At least one thing the president said last year still rings true today: "…the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."
But, at the same time, President Obama must draw a line in the sand when it comes to every American's fundamental right to clean air and water -- a right that faces its greatest threat in forty years. The president needs to remind us that the health of our families and the health of our economy go hand-in-hand. As EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has pointed out, making polluters clean up during the past 40 years not only has saved millions of American lives but also has added trillions of dollars to our economy.
Forcing people to settle for work that ultimately makes them sick or that means their children will grow up carrying inhalers is not a real solution -- especially when we can put the same resources toward creating good, green jobs that both strengthen our nation and protect our health as we phase out dirty energy.
There's no shortage of success stories from even just the past year. Mr. President: Tell those stories. Show us how we can keep moving toward that future rather than let fear and uncertainty condemn us to dependence on the entrenched oil, coal, and gas interests that want to hold us back.
This piece was originally posted on the Sierra Club website.
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