One of the few actual policy prescriptions in the State of the Union address was a vow to have a “clean energy standard,” deriving 80% of the electricity in the country from clean energy sources by 2035.

The words “clean energy” play an important role here. You typically hear about a “renewable energy standard,” with renewable energy defined as solar, wind, biomass, tidal, and things of that nature. Such a standard got 59 votes as recently as the 2007-2008 Congress; Mary Landrieu’s vote could have put that over the top. But a “clean energy standard” is a far different animal. This has been devised by Republicans like Lindsey Graham, and it adds to the definition of “clean energy” such elements as nuclear, natural gas and so-called “clean coal.” So in that context, the standard becomes far less ambitious.

I don’t think there’s a chance of anything else on energy passing in this Congress, period. With the President committed to a clean energy standard, it at least provides the opportunity for Republicans to climb aboard. They created this terminology and definition, after all. I would expect Graham, Richard Lugar and Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman all to release their own competing versions of a bill. But the House doesn’t look interested.

But across Capitol Hill, House Republicans have not been so keen to embrace new national energy mandates, even if it covers some of their favorites like coal and nuclear power.

“If the president wants to achieve it, he can achieve it in half of that time, the 2035, he can achieve the 80 percent with nuclear alone,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told POLITICO.

I don’t know that you could get one nuclear plant built in America by 2035 if you started today. And you certainly couldn’t without federal money. And that’s the new directive, right?

Enviro groups aren’t biting at this clean energy standard, calling it an “attempt to redefine clean energy.” And the means to pay for a lot of the President’s proposed clean-energy investments, through stripping oil industry subsidies, drew a quick rebuke from the oil industry:

American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight missed an opportunity to highlight real job creation and economic recovery opportunities.

“The American people spoke loud and clear in the last election and directed the President and new Congress to focus on one main issue-job creation. It’s unfortunate that the administration seems poised to stifle what remains one of America’s strongest job creating industries.

“Tonight was a missed opportunity. The President focused on job growth through federal spending, but was silent on one of the best ways to create jobs: allow more energy development. Natural gas and renewables are important components of our energy mix, but we will need our nation’s vast oil resources for decades to come. The oil and natural gas industry is a key driver of new jobs and economic prosperity Producing more oil and gas at home, which most Americans want, could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduce our deficit by billions, and enhance our energy security. Even better, the government wouldn’t have to invest a single taxpayer dollar – just give industry a green light to invest its own money.

“The U.S. oil and natural gas industry also pays taxes at effective rates far higher than most other industries, and does not receive payments from the government to support oil and gas development. The tax deductions it does receive are similar to those enjoyed by other industries to encourage energy production and new jobs. We need policies that help the 9.2 million hardworking men and women in the industry, not hurt them.

At least the oil industry admits it receives tax deductions. Progress! And they flatly don’t need them, given their role as established businesses.

All of this is to say, you can pretty safely dismiss the whole clean energy standard proposal.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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