This is how 2012 started off and most will remember how that turned out for the US coal industry. Profits fell, markets shrank, tough emissions standards made life hard and one major listed company ended up in Chapter 11.
In his address, Obama pointed to the benefits the US had been blessed with in natural gas and how this could be a game-changer for the nation.
“Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy,” he said.
“After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.
“In fact, much of our newfound energy is drawn from the lands and waters that we, the public, own together.
“So tonight I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”
Obama has made little secret of his hope to reduce emissions from US power stations.
He said over the past four years US carbon emissions had actually fallen.
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” Obama said.
“Now, it’s true no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense.
“We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just freak coincidence.
“Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgement of science – and act before it’s too late.”
Obama used his address to call on Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change.
Failing that, he said, he would use his cabinet to come up with executive actions to reduce pollution and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
This bodes ill for the coal sector.
However, there is a bright lining to this cloud because reports show US coal exports have hit record levels.