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Today in Cleantech

Let’s put some facts and figures behind last night’s SOTU clean energy pitches. As you’ve all read by now, President Barack Obama called for America to get 80 percent of its energy from clean energy resources by 2035. What does that mean? Well, first of all, Obama included natural gas and “clean coal” in his list of clean energy, a rhetorical addition that actually makes 80 percent a more realistic target, even if clean coal technology is probably 25 years down the road. Still, given that the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that coal will shrink from producing half of the country’s electricity today to a mere… 44 percent by 2035, we’d better find a way to make it cleaner. Second, Obama didn’t say how his administration or Congress might put us on that path during his remaining term. Will a national renewable energy mandate start us on the way, or will we have to rely on the 29 states and counting that have individual renewable portfolio standards? Third, Obama did say he would push Congress to strip the oil and gas industries of their federal subsidies and tax breaks, which according to some estimates have added up to $76 billion over the past decade, or 70 percent of all federal energy subsidies combined. Finally, Obama didn’t bring climate change into the argument — perhaps a good thing, since his hand-picked climate policy adviser is stepping down and carbon cap-and-trade legislation is all but dead for the next two years.