WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama outlined the progress of his agenda during the State of the Union address here Tuesday, citing a staggering increase in national employment numbers while praising the energy industry for it’s role in boosting the economy.
The president took credit for creating eight million new jobs since he came to office, although the number is still 1.2 million less since the recession rolled through the U.S. in 2008.
“One of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy,” Obama told the joint session of Congress. “The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.”
Missing in the speech was any mention of the Keystone pipeline that is expected to boost construction employment numbers considerably, or the future of a coal industry that is hemorrhaging jobs.
Obama extolled the virtues of solar energy but completely neglected the role of wind and declined to propose any new action to combat climate change.
He also praised the booming natural gas industry without mention of the fracking process used to produce the abundant product that is growing in popularity, prompting criticism from his environmental supporters.
“Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas,” Obama said.
“I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas,” Obama said.
“My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities,” Obama said.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the president’s environmental commitments failed to “seize on the opportunity and the obligation that the climate crisis has thrust upon us.”
“If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an all-of-the-above energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy,” Brune said.
“We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time,” Brune added.
May Boeve, executive director of 350.org that was founded by a leading Keystone opponent, denounced the speech as “more lip service.”
“President Obama says he recognizes the threat of climate change, but he sure doesn’t act like it,” Boeve said.
Although oil and gas production has thrived on state and private lands, the industry has not fared so well on federal lands controlled by the Obama administration that Republican critics say are locked up by red tape and government bureaucracy.
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn tweeted his reaction to the president’s speech throughout the address, and said that the energy industry is booming in spite of Obama’s policies.
“President #obama says he will cut Red Tape, but won’t sign my legislation streamlining permitting processes,” Lamborn tweeted.
Although natural gas production increased by 40 percent on state and private lands nationwide, it fell by 33 percent on federal lands.
Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton said that Obama’s policies are killing jobs and that 91 million Americans are still looking for work, not more government welfare.
“This has perhaps been felt the most in rural America, where as I’ve traveled through my district I’ve heard countless stories on how the costs of basic services like health care are higher, incomes are lower, and federal regulations have restricted many people from earning a living off the land as their families have done for generations,” Tipton said.
“The president needs to understand that these individuals aren’t looking for more government handouts—they want the opportunities they once had to put in a day’s work and earn a paycheck,” Tipton said.
“They want the federal government to get out of the way,” Tipton said.
The State of the Union speech is often used to deliver a laundry list of items the president hopes to accomplish in the coming year. Obama has proposed 24 new programs in past addresses, of which five have been realized.
The speech is also employed as a means to address the multitude of government agencies to deliver ideological marching orders for the coming year and create support among the party base.
“Unfortunately, the State of the Union address has deteriorated into a sort of partisan pep rally, so I frankly don’t put a whole lot of stock into it one way or the other,” said Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman.
Coffman said he appreciated the president’s promise to expand treatment options for veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and “wrestling with the dark horrors of combat,” and pledged to work with Democrats to ensure more resources are made available.
“Taking care of our warriors is not a partisan issue, it is a patriotic duty,” Coffman said.
“On the other hand, the president’s partisan chest thumping over his demands for more government spending and mandates as the panacea to all of our problems rings hollow,” Coffman said.
“If not for Obamacare and the reckless spending of the last ten plus years, this economy wouldn’t be in the sputtering malaise that it is,” Coffman said.
Obama apologized for the fractured rollout of his new health care law and announced that nine million Americans have signed up for new insurance coverage as well as Medicaid.
However, six million of those are new Medicaid enrollees and the remaining three million is the number of Americans who have selected a plan, but not necessarily paid for one.
The president pledged to remove all of the glitches from the Obamacare website, but did not address complaints that millions of Americans were not able to keep their doctors or insurance plans as promised.
In Colorado, 335,000 insurance plans have been cancelled for individuals so far.