President Obama struck hard on themes he has returned to repeatedly through his campaign and his young presidency: Renewable energy creates jobs and helps the environment. In the speech, he pledged to double the nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. Renewables currently supply about 7 percent of the nation's energy, so doubling that will still leave the United States largely dependent on fossil fuels. But it's an ambitious agenda even so.
To do that, Obama talked about stringing "thousands of miles of new power lines" to bring renewable solar energy from the sun-soaked Southwest and wind from places like the Dakotas. The problem with renewables is largely that the energy is far from people. And the problem with new power lines is that nobody wants them running through their own yards. So this is a promise easy to make, but challenging to reach.
Wind and solar energy are also more expensive than fossil fuels. So Obama is calling for "legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution." What the president is really asking Congress to do is to increase the cost of cheap coal, oil and natural gas. Stated that way, it's a tough sell. But one idea for reducing the sting is to find a way to return at least some of that money to energy users. The huge challenge there is to make sure that poor people, who are least able to afford higher gasoline and electric prices, can receive some of the money they pay out of one pocket back into another one.