Some of President Obama’s earlier State of the Union addresses had meaty sections about improving U.S. infrastructure, creating jobs and accelerating project reviews. But his final State of the Union speech, delivered on Jan. 12, didn’t mention infrastructure or construction at all.
But renewable-energy advocates were happy to hear him include statements advancing wind and solar power. The closest Obama came in his speech to discussing infrastructure was to say he wanted to “put tens of thousands of Americans to work, building a 21st-century transportation system.” However, he provided no specifics. Groups such as the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association praised Obama’s comments about renewable energy. For example, he declared, “We’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources.”
But Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Obama has “placed a stranglehold on American resource production” and criticized the federal government for blocking offshore energy exploration and for not opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
General congressional reaction to Obama’s speech split down the aisle. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “House Republicans will continue to fight this administration’s knee-jerk tendency to impose regulations or executive actions.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised economic gains in the Obama years but said, “We cannot take our foot off the gas pedal now.”
Perhaps Obama omitted the topic of infrastructure because Congress has taken action, belatedly, on big public-works bills. After a series of stopgaps, lawmakers in
December passed the five-year, $305-billion FAST Act highway-transit authorization. In 2014, Congress approved the $12-billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act, the first Corps of Engineers civil-works authorization in more than six years.