- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NEWTON, Iowa — President Obama on Wednesday campaigned for placing a cap on carbon emissions, using the symbolism of Earth Day to argue that the United States must innovate on climate change to expand the economy.

On a day trip here to highlight clean energy technology, Mr. Obama announced he will authorized leases of federal waters off the coasts to generate wind and water electricity, and said next week he is bringing together world leaders to talk about the climate crisis, adding the right choices can help the United States become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy.

“The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy its a choice between prosperity and decline,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama spoke at Trinity Structural Towers, a manufacturing plant which once housed a Maytag plant before the appliance maker laid off its 3,000-person workforce here. Now, Trinity makes towers for wind energy production and has hired back “dozens” of former Maytag workers, according to the White House.

The event served a triple purpose - the president lobbied for support for his environmental agenda while trumpeting new funding from his economic stimulus plan, with the state’s prominence in the presidential election process lurking in the background. Mr. Obama fondly recalled his long campaign through Iowa before the Democratic presidential caucus, but did not note the victory here helped him win the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

As the president talked energy in the heartland, his allies in Congress were attempting to advance his climate change agenda. Three of his Cabinet secretaries were testifying on Capitol Hill as lawmakers took up a major energy bill this week.

Mr. Obama dismissed critics who say his energy plans will be too costly, while acknowledging that “there will” be costs for both the nation and Americans as individuals.

“For more than thirty years, all too little has been done. Theres a lot of talk of action when oil prices are high, but then it slips from the radar when oil prices fall. We shift from shock to indifference time and again, year after year,” Mr. Obama said. “We cannot afford to do that anymore not when the cost for our economy, for our country, and for our planet is so high. 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.”

Mr. Obama detailed his plan, which aims to set a cap on the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that our economy is allowed to produce in total from industry and vehicle emissions. The effect, he said, would make carbon a commodity that companies could “buy and sell the right to produce a certain amount.”

“In this way, a company can determine for itself whether it makes sense to spend the money to become cleaner or more efficient, or to spend the money on a certain amount of allowable pollution,” he said, predicting the plan would give companies incentives to do their work in a cleaner and greener way.

Mr. Obama dedicated a considerable section of his 35-minute speech to listing the alternative energy portions of his $787 billion economic stimulus plan, offering a positive report card of how his efforts are creating jobs and saving taxpayers money.

He said the plan to modernize federal buildings will cut energy costs, and added the state grants for weatherizing homes are saving families about $350 annually.

Also in the stimulus was a tax credit for buying more efficient energy systems.

Mr. Obama lauded his administration for increasing fuel efficiency standards for cars for the first time in decades, and added the government fleet is buying 17,600 American-made fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

He also pushed his pending $3.6 trillion budget, which includes $150 billion over the next 10 years for clean energy development, and said his policies will create millions of jobs in the growing sector.

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