The idea that we can solve this problem of our massive, inefficient energy use through investing more in R&D is ridiculous. We need to start bringing down our emissions immediately, before Manhattan finds itself under water. Spending more money on research into technologies that may or may not be more efficient, and may or may not be economically viable 10 years from now, is insufficient.
There are plenty of technologies, such as driving smaller cars, or hybrids, or taking buses, or living in smaller houses, that do not need to be researched and developed; they just need to be chosen. And they will be chosen if we make indulging in SUVs and McMansions prohibitively expensive, to reflect the social cost of global warming, and the cost of disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion that forced Obama to make this address in the first place.
Obama should know all this, and his decision to pretend otherwise reeks of the same lack of courage and candor he had just lambasted unnamed predecessors for. Tossing out the pain-free idea that we can invest our way out of this problem is politically convenient, but it is not realistic.
Obama swiftly pivoted to sounding like he was filled with steely resolve, saying, "But the one approach I will not accept is inaction." But merely investing in energy research is little better than inaction. What Obama needed to say, if he was willing to stake his presidency on combating catastrophic climate change, as he had previously staked his presidency—and won—on the proposition that Americans are all entitled to affordable health insurance, was that he would not tolerate anything short of a bill that caps or taxes carbon emissions. He did not, and we will all suffer the consequences.