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.

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