President's State of the Union 2011 Outlines Clean Energy Goals

February 2, 2011

President Obama at the wheel of a new car in a factory.

President Obama tests a Chevrolet Volt during a 2010 visit to the Detroit-Hamtramck factory where it is assembled.
Credit: Pete Souza, White House

Declaring that current challenges present this generation's "Sputnik moment," President Obama called for high-profile energy goals—including a target of producing 80% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035—during his 2011 State of the Union address on January 25. To break the nation's oil dependency, the President said the United States should aim to be the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and to provide 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

His message stressed continued investment into science and research. "Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race," Obama said, referring to the contest that began following the launch of the Soviets' Sputnik satellite. "We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology—an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people." The President's budget will propose increasing clean energy technology funding by a third compared to 2010, expanding DOE's advanced research program, and doubling—from three to six—the number of DOE energy innovation hubs operating.

To meet his goal of 80% clean energy by 2035, the President urged an inclusive approach. "Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all," he said. To attain this vision, the President's proposed budget will focus on "high-value" research into clean energy deployment, and it will include more than a doubling of investments in energy efficiency and a more than 85% increase in renewable energy investment. The White House said such expenditures will include support for the "$1 a Watt" initiative to make solar energy cost competitive; an increase in funding for 24-hour geothermal renewable energy; and more emphasis on industrial efficiency to keep U.S. manufacturing competitive. He wants a new energy efficiency initiative to catalyze private sector investment and upgrade commercial buildings. And, the Administration intends to leverage the U.S. Department of the Interior's efforts to site more renewable energy projects on public lands.

Building on the progress begun in 2010 with the arrival of the Chevy Volt hybrid and the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle (EV) in showrooms, Obama said the United States should aim to have one million advanced technology vehicles on its roads in four years. To reach that goal, the Administration will propose new measures to support EV manufacturing and adoption in the United States through improved consumer rebates, investments in R&D, and competitive programs to encourage communities that invest in EV infrastructure.

This effort will also tap into ongoing work to set strong fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks as well as biofuel exploration. "With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels," he said. He will also continue to push for high-speed rail as another efficient transportation option, noting that in the Midwest and California such systems are already underway. These next generation rail systems "could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car," Obama said. See the President's State of the Union transcript and fact sheet, the Energy innovation hub website, the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) website, and EERE Network News coverage of the energy hubs.