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How Obama Plans to “Double Down” on Clean Energy

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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wind and solar energyEarly in his state of the union speech, President Obama renewed his call of last year for investments in clean energy. Unbowed by the troubles with Solyndra, Obama said he would direct the defense department to throw its buying power behind clean energy supplies for the U.S. military.

The U.S. military constitutes a huge market for alternative fuels. The Air Force alone burns 2.4 billion gallons of jet fuel a year.  The Department of Defense burns $18 billion worth of oil a year, four fifths of the federal governments’ energy tab.

In truth, a shift within the U.S. military to green fuels has been under way for more than a year. The U.S. Navy has been purchasing jet fuel derived from camelina—a derivative of canola—and a diesel like fuel derived from algae for its ships. The U.S. Air Force in 2010 began testing camelina oil in place of petroleum in its fuels as part of a program to  derive as much as half of its fuel from alternative sources by 2016.

Whether Obama will be able to use clean energy to boost jobs may be tougher. A study released last summer projected that breakthroughs in clean energy technologies would add $150 billion in additional economic output and 1.1 million new jobs by 2030. (The study, “The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation,” is based on McKinsey & Co.’s Low Carbon Economics computer modeling.

For more on clean energy, see our in-depth report.








I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy,” Obama said during his State of the Union address. ” I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”




Fred Guterl About the Author: Fred Guterl is the executive editor of Scientific American and author of Fate of the Species (Bloomsbury). Follow on Twitter @fredguterl.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. JamesDavis 7:31 am 01/25/2012

    That statement alone should get the whole scientific community behind Obama and do everything they can to get him back in office. I can just hear the “pugs” now saying, “them dems hain’t gonna bring nothing clean to our little coal and oil burning communities and cars. I like to smell the coal and oil smoke and hear the roar of my ICE engine. No matter what it takes, we will stop him and his clean energy agenda.”

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  2. 2. StuntJournalist 10:17 am 01/25/2012

    You won’t understand why the Obama administration has been making strides in algae biofuel but keeping it on the down low for the avg citizen until you realize that Big Green, Big Oil, and Big Gov are the same people. It doesn’t behoove these interests to peddle 2nd gen biofuel to the public until there are carbon taxes already in place and oil is $150-200/barrel.

    To the puzzlement of the right, the admin also needed to get control of wetlands through the EPA so they can eventually hand them over to their cronies who will double dip on carbon offsets and making biofuel from the wetlands.

    Algae biofuel is going to happen because our dear leaders are all invested in it with their advantageous foreknowledge of legislation. There were also a lot of things that went down during Obama’s administration that contributed to waterway deadzones the Ag Sec is now turning into biofuel:

    1)An algae-causing oil spill the company who is a leader in algae biofuel couldn’t seem to cap and kept throwing urea at (I’m sure they didn’t know urea grows algae).

    2) An Army Corps of Engineers who purposely blows up levees, thereby flooding the Mississippi into a wetlands wonderland and increasing the dead zone in the Gulf.

    I’m am sure algae and wetlands being worth big money did not incentivize anyone like algae biofuel researcher Unilever to proliferate pollution. I am sure Occupy Wall Street does not ask for wetlands on behalf of Soros and Zuccotti to turn them into their biofuel investments.

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  3. 3. Postman1 4:36 pm 01/27/2012

    “I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany”
    Statement made by obama with the full knowledge that, like Solyndra, Ener1 was filing for bankruptcy after taking $118 million of our tax dollars.

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  4. 4. skybluskyblue 6:49 pm 01/27/2012

    StuntJournalist, this sounds like something Glenn Beck would say; is it from him or those other political shock jocks? If not, where is your documentation? It sound like conjecture and politically motivated fear-mongering to me. Perhaps your chosen screen name says it all.

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