Obama Marks Earth Day at Iowa Wind Tower Plant
By Michael A. Fletcher
NEWTON, Iowa -- President Obama marked Earth Day by traveling to a wind turbine tower plant here to promote his renewable energy policy, which he said will simultaneously create jobs, increase national security and help the environment.
"The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy -- it's a choice between prosperity and decline," Obama 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."
Speaking at a cavernous plant that formerly housed a Maytag appliance factory, Obama called on Congress to pass legislation that would invest $150 billion in the burgeoning renewable energy sector over the next decade.
Obama also called for an increase in domestic oil and gas production as a "short-term" measure, while saying the nation should increase the use of nuclear energy while finding reliable ways to store nuclear waste.
The president's appearance marked what the White House called the president's effort to enact comprehensive energy legislation, which Obama views as vital to the nation's long-term interests. The administration included $23 billion for renewable energy in its recently enacted economic stimulus plan. The bill also contained money to retrain workers in green jobs.
And now the administration is prodding Congress to move aggressively on a cap-and-trade regime to reduce carbon emissions.
"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," Obama said.
Today, three Cabinet secretaries were on Capitol Hill to testify in favor of legislation to address climate change. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to regulate greenhouse gases, putting further pressure on Congress to act. Yet, it remains unclear whether Congress will produce the kind of legislation the administration is seeking.
Opponents of cap and trade legislation, who included many Republicans as well as Democrats from industrial and coal producing states, have criticized it as a massive tax that will increase the cost of electricity and a broad range of products across the economy.
"House Democrats are beginning their push for a cap-and-trade scheme that makes big promises, but amounts to little more than a national energy tax that will destroy countless jobs and raise energy prices on families and small businesses already struggling during this recession," said House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio).
Before speaking, Obama toured the Trinity Structural Towers Manufacturing Plant, which constructs huge columns for wind turbines. Nationally, that business has been picking up in recent years, with 8,300 put in place across the United States last year -- more than 20 times installed in 2002, according to Victor R. Abate, a vice president at General Electric.
Obama pointed to the plant as a model of how the nation's manufacturing economy can be transformed to accommodate a renewable energy future. The plant here employs 91 people, and expects to create over 100 more jobs within the next two years.
While the plant is creating jobs, its scale pales next to the number of people who once worked at Maytag, which employed some 1,800 workers before its plant here closed two years ago.
In his remarks, Obama announced that the Department of Interior for the first time leased federal waters for projects to generate electricity from wind as well as from ocean currents and other renewable sources.
"The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21 st century global economy," Obama said. "America can be that nation. America must be that nation."
Posted at 2:36 PM ET on Apr 22, 2009
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