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What else the president could've said

January 30, 2010 - Mike Maneval

Amidst the potpourri of topics in President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address was climate change, a topic he touched on briefly and set up with a well-chosen turn of phrase.

"I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change," the president said. "But here's the thing - even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future."

The president set the topic up very well, but I feel, as someone who follows economics much more closely than climatology or the natural sciences, missed an opportunity to pivot the issue onto grounds everyone can understand.

Today, the U.S. is heavily dependent on two finite commodities, petroleum and coal, for energy and to power our transportation infrastructure. But trouble with finite commodities remains: The better the economy does and the faster the U.S. grows, the more rapidly we deplete the quantities of these resources - one of which, petroleum, has dozens if not hundreds of applications ranging from energy to the production of plastics. As the commodities become scarcer, the faster they will increase in value and the more revenues their cost will absorb. Revenues that otherwise could go to payroll or consumer price reductions for the goods and services.

Diversification of U.S. energy sources with a keen eye on the expansion on renewable resources goes beyond the claims of climate-change scientists - even those scientists who've found their research subjected to theft and computer hacking. And it goes beyond the President's recognition of the opportunities for economic leadership. Diversifying how the U.S. powers itself is in the best interests of every American who earns a paycheck or shops in their neighbors' stores.   



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