Never before has a presidential inaugural speech paid so much lip service to energy as President Obama's. The 44th president brought up energy and the environment early on, as symptoms of the crisis facing America: "[A]nd each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."
As already indicated by the stimulus package, energy also grabbed a central role in remaking America.
"The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."
President Obama wasn't done; he also tackled climate change: "With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet." He even nodded to America's high per-capita use of energy and natural resources: "[N]or can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."
No recent president made energy and the environment such a centerpiece of his inaugural speech, not even Jimmy Carter, who burned much of his political capital, not to say cardigans, struggling to change America's energy habits. President Nixon did twice mention "a cleaner environment," and he also created the Environmental Protection Agency. Neither Presidents Bush, nor President Clinton, nor President Reagan, had a single word to say about energy or the environment in their combined seven inaugural speeches.
So the die is cast -- the big question now is whether budget realities will create more hurdles or handholds for President Obama to turn his energy and environmental rhetoric into action.
WALL STREET JOURNAL