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Innovation is State of the Union centerpiece

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President Obama wants America to be the undisputed universal champion of innovation and progress.

The president’s State of the Union address was big on promoting innovation and ingenuity as a means of boosting the U.S. economy.

“We have to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” said President Obama.

In past speeches, presidents have made mention of mitigating global climate change to promote renewable energy. In last night’s speech, President Obama didn’t even bring it up. Instead, he touted renewable energy as America’s path to economic prosperity. 

“Clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling,” said the president. “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.”

So how does the president suggest accomplishing that goal?  For one, strip oil companies of their tax breaks. Instead, the president suggests seeking clean energy from a variety of sources. Hydrofracking advocates can take heart in a brief nod to their industry.

“Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen,” said the president.

And there's the rub: the divided legislature, which is more likely to spell gridlock than compromise. But the president noted during the speech that the issue is larger than American political rivalries.  He told the nation that China is making huge gains in clean energy and its position in the global economy - and that should be a new “Sputnik moment.”

And so to compete, the president is urging that a new energy economy be the country’s modern-day Apollo project.

Want a full rundown of the innovation highlights from the address?  Check out the #itny hashtag for tweets from @innovationtrail.

Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.
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