WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will promote clean energy in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night as part of his push to bolster the nation's economy and create jobs, a senior White House official said.
Despite pushback from critics who say the White House has focused too much on renewable energy instead of traditional energy sources like oil, the Obama administration remains committed to more sustainable energy sources, said Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
"The president has talked since the beginning of the administration about how important it is to move us to a clean energy economy. He'll talk about it tonight," Sutley told reporters on the sidelines of a clean energy economy summit.
Sutley said clean energy is a major focus for the administration.
"A clean energy economy is...good for jobs, good for growth. It's also good for our planet," she said.
Administration officials on Monday said Carol Browner, a key architect of Obama's energy policy, would step down soon, raising questions about whether the White House may be changing its approach to energy and climate change.
The Obama administration has put billions of dollars toward loan guarantees for clean energy projects, related research and tax breaks for wind and solar projects.
Still, the White House failed to get comprehensive climate change legislation signed into law. With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives in the new Congress, that goal is now basically unattainable in the next two years.
Sutley said Browner's exit does not "diminish the commitment" of the administration to advocating for clean energy.
Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union speech to Congress at 9 p.m. on Tuesday to lay out a road map of his policy priorities in the coming year.
Some of the major themes of the speech will be competitiveness and innovation, and "that will apply to the clean energy area as well," Sutley said.
Underscoring the emphasis Obama will put on energy in his speech, the administration has invited several representatives of the clean energy industry to come to Capitol Hill for the speech.
Denise Bode, who heads the American Wind Energy Association and was invited to attend, said Obama has one of his best opportunities to explain how clean energy will lead to economic development.
"Developing a new clean energy industry is a marathon, not a sprint. It will require sustained attention from our nation's energy decision-makers," she said.
Sitting in the First Lady's Box as a guest of Michelle Obama will be Gary and Robert Allen, who retooled half their roofing products manufacturing company to make solar shingles.
Republican lawmakers have targeted the administration's clean energy initiatives for possible budget cuts.
The oil industry on Tuesday called on the president not to favor clean energy over oil and natural gas in his speech.
The American Petroleum Institute pointed out that oil and gas companies provide millions of jobs and are ready to create more if the administration removes barriers to drilling.
"We understand the need to push for green technology and green jobs," said API's Erik Milito. "Our contribution on the jobs front can only be sustained and increased if the federal government understands that it must allow our companies to do what they do best: produce the energy that America wants and needs."
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Tom Doggett; Editing by Walter Bagley and Cynthia Osterman