This column was originally published on RealMoney on Jan. 24 at 8:50 a.m. EST. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.

In Tuesday evening's State of the Union address, President Bush provided a thorough annual assessment of the nation's progress, but broke little new ground as far as investors are concerned. Talk of health care, energy, a broken budget process and growing threats to the U.S. was plentiful, but investable themes were few.

Fortunately for energy investors, his hour of rhetoric did offer a few tidbits to ponder.

The Hydrocarbon Conundrum

Among his most interesting comments about energy was his stated goal for the U.S. to reduce gasoline demand by 20% in the coming decade. His solution appeared to be less than compelling: an increase in hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels. The president aims for production of ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative fuels to reach 35 billion gallons by 2017.

Although the goal is admirable, the reality of attaining it is another story. While ethanol and other alternatives will play an increasingly important role in the U.S., their development will take years to reach their full potential. The logistics of bringing an emerging industry to widespread commercialization are challenging and could have unexpected consequences for agricultural prices (such as corn) and rail-transportation infrastructure.

That said, President Bush's speech will probably benefit many of the ethanol and biodiesel companies. European alternative-energy companies are trading higher on the news, and U.S. ethanol companies like Verasun ( VSE) will likely follow suit.

Moreover, the president also said he hopes to double the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR, which is the stockpile of oil to be used in an emergency, in the coming years. That initiative acknowledges what most investors already know: The U.S. will remain a hydrocarbon-dependent nation for decades to come.

A Lump of Clean Coal

Another initiative that may receive more attention is a brief mention of clean coal technology. As utilities like TXU ( TXU) look to build a number of clean coal generation plants and others consider various forms of cleaner coal generation from refined coal to coal gasification, the potential for a new generation of much cleaner power plants may be closer than we think.

Several companies are engaged in clean coal technology, albeit in the early stages. For example, Evergreen Energy ( EEE) and Headwaters ( HW) both have emerging technologies that should assist in the clean coal process.

In addition, other utilities such as Xcel Energy ( XEL) and Southern ( SO) are exploring opportunities in clean coal generation. If those plants are eventually built, infrastructure companies like Shaw Group ( SGR) and equipment suppliers like General Electric ( GE) will all benefit.

There weren't many direct investment opportunities from the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday. However, some of his energy-related ideas, combined with new technology and utilities' interest in cleaner coal technology, suggest at least one investment theme that is likely to emerge in the years ahead.

Editor's note: For more on alternative energy, click here for a video interview recorded Tuesday with Edward Kerschner, chief investment officer at Citigroup Investment, who recommends a broad, thematic approach to the issue of climate change and related investments.

At time of publication, Edmonds had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.

Christopher S. Edmonds is partner and managing director of research at Pritchard Capital Partners, a New Orleans energy investment firm. He is based in Atlanta. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Edmonds cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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