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Obama on trade, energy

In case you missed it, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address touched on some issues important to agriculture, including energy and trade.

Here’s what Obama had to say about energy:

“At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars.  At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.  With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.  (Applause.)

We need to get behind this innovation.  And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.)  I don’t know if -- I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.  (Laughter.)  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.  So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal:  By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)”

He also talked about trade:

“To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 -– because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home.  Already, our exports are up.  Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States.  And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans -- and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.  (Applause.)

Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks. (Applause.)”

Here’s some of the reaction farm farm groups:

“We were encouraged that President Obama spoke about the needs of rural America and the importance of our country’s global leadership when it comes to agriculture,” said National Corn Growers Association Chairman Darrin Ihnen. “Our growers have been working hard and smart to meet all needs for food, feed and fuel and we have long recognized the need for policies and programs to grow opportunities for American farmers here at home and in markets abroad.”

On trade agreements, Ihnen said: “We need quick action on these three agreements, which have been languishing in Washington for years.. These agreements will help our country’s economy by increasing exports and creating sorely-needed jobs.”  

And Ihnen wants the President to remember corn ethanol when he promotes biofuels.

“The success of all biofuels hinges on the success of ethanol from corn -- on the growth of an ethanol industry that is leading the way, sustainably increasing in economic, environmental and energy efficiency,” Ihnen said.

The 25x ’25 Alliance liked part of the speech.

“The 25x’25 Alliance commends President Obama for his foresight and the prominence he has given to the goal of producing 80 percent or America’s electricity with clean energy by 2035,” said Read Smith, co-chairman of the alliance’s national steering committee. “With the vision of meeting 25 percent of our nation’s total energy needs with renewables from the land, the 25x’25 Alliance believes that America’s farms, ranches and forestlands can provide the renewable energy that can help meet the president’s ambitious target.”

And National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson had this statement:

“Tonight the president called for a spark in the creativity and imagination of our people, calling it our generation’s Sputnik. American farmers and ranchers are also among our most creative when given a challenge. When given a goal for energy security and independence, they have and will continue to provide creative and renewable solutions such as biofuels, wind power and solar energy. We can win the clean energy race. Agriculture can help lead the way for the United States to meet the goal 80 percent of America’s electricity coming from clean energy sources by 2035.”

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol also had this to day about the oil tax proposal:

“President Obama delivered the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress last night, and we are grateful for his statement “clean-energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean-energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling,” Jennings said. “The American ethanol industry couldn’t agree more.  If Congress and the Administration take steps to remove Big Oil’s status-quo grip on the fuel market, corn ethanol and advanced biofuel will finally have the certainty to supply safer and more affordable fuel choices to consumers while creating jobs for the U.S. That is why the E10 blend wall must be overcome with an approval for E15 for all cars in and policies that deploy more Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) and blender pumps should be implemented.”

Chris Thorne of the ethanol trade group, Growth Energy, shared with his reaction to Obama’s goal of ending oil tax breaks:

“Considering that the "hidden cost" of oil to taxpayers is at least $24 a barrel -- if not much more -- it seems closing loopholes for Big Oil makes sense,” Thorne said.  “Our Fueling Freedom plan would redirect tax credits away from oil companies toward market access for alternatives, and when real market reform is reached, end the tax credits. Ethanol can compete against and beat Big Oil in a free and open market.”

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