Obama: Energy an essential part of economic recovery plan

Energy components are essential parts of a strong economic recovery plan because they would begin to reduce reliance on imported oil, US President Barack Obama told DOE employees on Feb. 5.

Feb 6th, 2009

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 6 -- Energy components are essential parts of a strong economic recovery plan because they would begin to reduce reliance on imported oil, US President Barack H. Obama told Department of Energy employees on Feb. 5.

"Your mission is so important and will only grow as we seek to transform the ways we produce and use energy for the sake of our environment, our security, and our economy," Obama said in a joint appearance with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Congress should not be afraid to take the necessary dramatic steps, Obama maintained, "because we know that if we don't act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse." He said, "Crisis could turn into catastrophe for families and businesses across our country."

Obama said, in the past few days he'd seen proposals from some members of Congress "that you may not have read, but would be very familiar to you." He said, "They're rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve our problems, that half-measures and tinkering are somehow enough [and] that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges: the crushing cost of health care, the inadequate state of so many schools, and our dangerous dependence on foreign oil."

Obama said his economic plan would create or save more than 3 million jobs; put people to work rebuilding roads, bridges, and levees; modernize the nation's health care system; provide middle-class tax relief and jobless benefits and continued health insurance for the unemployed; and help states and communities maintain their police, firefighting, and teaching workforces.

'The tyranny of oil'
The president said, "Finally, this plan will begin to end the tyranny of oil in our time. After decades of dragging our feet, this plan will finally spark the creation of a clean energy industry that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next few years, manufacturing wind turbines and solar cells for example, and millions more after that. These jobs and these investments will double our capacity to generate renewable electricity over the next few years."

He said his economic plan would fund construction of a better, smarter national electrical grid and train workers to build it, and "lead a revolution in energy efficiency," which would modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve more than 2 million homes' energy efficiency.

"In fact, as part of this effort, today I've signed a presidential memorandum requesting that [DOE] set new efficiency standards for common household appliances. This will save consumers money. This will spur innovation. And this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy. We'll save through these simple steps over the next 30 years the amount of energy produced over a 2-year period by all the coal-fired power plants in America," Obama said.

Investments in mass transit systems to increase capacity, in roads to reduce congestion and in technologies, which will accelerate development of plug-in hybrid vehicles and other innovations would be "a significant down payment on a cleaner and more independent energy future," he added.

Critics have ridiculed the idea that part of the economic stimulus should be used to modernize the entire federal motor vehicle fleet to take advantage of state-of-the-art fuel efficiency, Obama continued. "They call it pork. You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create jobs manufacturing these vehicles [but] it will set a standard for private industry to match," he said.

Inaction isn't an option
"For the last few years, I've talked about these issues with Americans from one end of this country to another. Washington may not be ready to get serious about energy independence, but I am. So are you. And so are the American people. Inaction is not an option that's acceptable to me and it's certainly not acceptable to the American people. Not on energy, not on the economy, and not at this critical moment," Obama maintained.

He called on all members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to rise to the moment. "No plan is perfect, and there have been constructive changes made to this one over the last month. There may be more today. But the scale and scope of this plan is right. It's what America needs, and we need to move forward today," he said.

Congressional Republicans remained skeptical as the Senate debated the bill on Feb. 5. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said, "Apparently, the authors of this bill just couldn't resist inserting scores of long-cherished pet projects. That's how you end up with $70 million for climate research, tens of millions to spruce up government office buildings here in Washington, and $20 million for the removal of fish passage barriers in a stimulus package that was supposed to be timely, targeted, and temporary."

US House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said, as debate continued in the Senate: "While some say the problems with the so-called stimulus bill amount to less than 1% of the bill, the American people know this legislation goes 100% in the wrong direction."

Pence said, "Democrats in Congress are exploiting a national economic crisis to fund a wish list of tired, liberal spending priorities that have little to do with creating jobs. We cannot borrow and spend our way back to a growing economy."

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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