The Washington Times - April 22, 2009, 01:25PM

NEWTON, Iowa — President Obama returns to Iowa Wednesday with an Earth Day push for his environmental plans, visiting a city where he more than a year ago said he had “not ruled out” nuclear power as part of an energy proposal. 

The tour of a former Maytag plant turned green manufacturing facility here is tied to the Democratic president’s push for new alternative energy legislation to battle climate change.

Trinity Structural Towers, which opened last fall, makes towers for wind energy production and employs “dozens” of former Maytag workers, according to the White House.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, will join the president on Air Force One and together they will tour the plant before the president speaks.

Obama competed in the formerly red state — making it a new political battleground that helped him win the presidency.

Obama, last in the Hawkeye State for a rally on Halloween, is scheduled to be here just three hours Wednesday.

Obama was last in Newton in late December, 2007, a few days before his historic win of the presidential caucus.

The visit made headlines months later when Republicans used a partial quote to portray Obama as saying “No to nuclear” power, even though he actually had been criticized by environmentalists for his qualified past support for nuclear.

The Republican ad cited the December ‘07 stop in Newton, omitting the context of the remark, which Obama made in response to a young caucus participant who told the Democrat that she was “still concerned” about his support for nuclear power given its safety risks.

“I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Obama said. “I have not ruled out nuclear as part of that package but only so far as it is clean and safe. I have the same attitude with respect to coal. We’ve got to try everything to see what works.”

Obama said that until the nation can solve safety and storage issues and “can produce clean, safe energy without enormous subsidies from the U.S. government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and biodiesel.”

We’ll see if nuclear power comes up Wednesday as he visits the same city.

Also of note, one year ago Wednesday Obama and Hillary Clinton were battling for the Pennsylvania primary, which she won decisively.