Marking Earth Day in Newton, Iowa, President Obama said there are no “silver bullets” or “magic energy sources” that can immediately reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil or its energy needs, but the nation can lead the way in developing new technologies for a 21st century clean energy economy.
“On this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America,” Obama said at Trinity Structural Towers, a former Maytag appliance factory that now produces towers for wind energy production.
Obama linked the nation’s energy security to its economic security, but added that it is not a choice between one or the other.
“The choice we face is between prosperity and decline,” he said. “The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.”
Obama announced a new program to develop renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave and ocean currents. He said this will lead to major investments in offshore clean energy and allow projects to move forward in places like New Jersey and Delaware.
Obama said that if fully pursued, wind energy projects could generate as much as 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030 and create 250,000 jobs. “As with so many clean energy investments, it’s win-win: good for environment and great for our economy,” he said.
The president also pushed for a cap-and-trade program. “By closing the carbon loophole through this kind of market-based cap, we can address in a systematic way all the facets of the energy crisis: lowering our dependence on foreign oil, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and promoting new industries right here in America,” he said.
The president came to Trinity Structural Towers to highlight how industries and companies can transition to a green, 21st economic model that creates jobs and new sources of energy. When Whirlpool Corp. purchased Maytag Corporation in 2006, it announced plans to shutter the former Maytag HQ and hundreds of employees were let go by. The White House is touting the fact that now “dozens” of the 91 employees who currently work at the plant are former Maytag workers.
“Today, this facility is alive again with new industry,” Obama said. “This community continues to struggle, and not everyone has been so fortunate as to be rehired, but more than one hundred people will now be employed at this plant, many the same folks who had lost their jobs when Maytag shut its doors.”
Iowa is the second largest wind producing state in the nation and the White House said that about half of that capacity was added just in the last year.
Before his remarks, Obama toured the Trinity facility and spoke on the factory floor with workers who showed him large steel cylinders that house wind turbines.
In Maryland today, Vice President Joe Biden marked Earth Day by announcing $300 million in stimulus funds for state and local governments to invest in clean energy vehicles.
Hawkeye State Homecoming
Today is Obama’s first trip to Iowa since being sworn-in as president, and it is a homecoming of sorts. Obama’s win in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2008 kicked off a nomination battle that turned into a five-month race against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton .
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Iowa will “always be a special place for the president.”
He said that he and the president were joking that they did not know you could come to Iowa and just do one stop and head home, thinking of the breakneck schedule they kept on the campaign trail in 2007.
“Most days were anywhere from four to seven stops and a hotel room that you rarely unpacked in because all you wanted to do was go to sleep,” Gibbs said.
Iowa is the seventh state -- that he flipped from red to blue on Election Day -- that Obama has visited since taking office.
White House Sizes Up Fuel Efficient Cars to Add to Fleet
The administration invited the big three automakers to drive over some of their fuel efficient cars to the White House today. The procurement office is in the process of choosing green cars to add to the 43-car White House’s fleet. Representatives from GM, Chrysler and Ford put the cars on display today on the driveway between the West Wind and the Eisenhower Executive Office building and invited White House staff to come size up the hybrid, alternative fuel, and fusion cars.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says that the office is looking at cars that fit into the president’s environmentally-friendly vision, in fuel range, size of vehicle and energy efficiency. The new cars will be purchased in the next year and will ultimately be included the fleet which moves everything from White House staff to top officials around.
-- Karen Travers, Sunlen Miller and John Hendren