Natural gas got only a passing mention as a clean fuel in President Obama's State of the Union Speech Tuesday night, at the same time the president set a goal of a million electric vehicles by 2015 and vowed to "eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars of oil subsidies..."
"Instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's," the president said. T. Boone Pickens and other single-minded natural gas supporters might take comfort in a slight change in Tuesday night's reference to eliminating oil subsidies. In his first State of the Union address in January 2010 the goal was to eliminate tax incentives for "oil and gas" companies. This time around it was just "oil subsidies" that would continue to be targeted.
Obama highlighted wind and solar power as clean fuels and then noted that "others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all, and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."
The Independent Petroleum Association of America pointed out the "basic disconnect" in the president's speech. "By and large, American independent natural gas producers are also America's oil producers. As such, raising taxes on our industry ...will undercut the production of clean-burning natural gas, and the tens of thousands of jobs associated with this production."
IPAA also pointed out that removing the incentives will harm independent oil and gas producers which are "overwhelmingly small businesses" that the administration is depending on to create jobs.
Others noted that while he set an impressive goal for biofueled and electric-powered vehicles, there inexplicably was no mention of natural gas vehicles.
Following on a tumultuous year in the Gulf of Mexico, there was no repeat of last year's reference to "opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development" (see Daily GPI, Jan. 29, 2010). And if you're counting up omissions, there also was no reference to the administration's current drive to revamp the Interior Department's oversight of the offshore exploration and production business.
That's not all that comes under the heading of "what a difference a year makes." Given the administration's failure in 2009-2010 with a Democratic-controlled Congress to push through climate change legislation with a cap-and-trade program, there was no mention of sending a comprehensive climate bill to the divided 112th Congress.
In fact, there were few specifics in the president's speech, which has generally been viewed as directed toward bringing the nation together and spurring Americans to scale the heights as world leaders in education, innovation, enterprise and job creation. The president set a goal of having 80% of electricity production coming from clean energy sources by 2035, but didn't say how it would be achieved. Some specifics will come in the administration budget, expected to be unveiled later this week.
Regarding enterprise, during his speech the president introduced Brandon Fisher, president of Center Rock Inc. of Berlin, PA, a small business which manufactures drilling tools and bits used around the world in oil and gas E&P operations and in other industries. Fisher had heard the president of Chile say on television that it would take until Christmas to free 33 Chilean miners trapped in a cave-in. "We contacted them and let them know we had tools that would do it in half the time." a spokesman said (see Daily GPI, Oct. 18, 2010). Not only that, but Center Rock quickly manufactured a supply of special drill bits; Fisher delivered them in person, and along with several others from his company stayed on the job until the rescue drilling was completed in early October. Now that's real customer service.
The president and his invited guests weren't the only ones in the spotlight Tuesday night. Following on the vicious and bombastic battles of the past year and the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pundits almost unanimously remarked on how well the Congress behaved during the State of the Union. It appears there still is one.
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