- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

NEWTON, Iowa | President Obama campaigned Wednesday for imposing a cap on carbon emissions, using Earth Day to say that the United States must innovate on climate change to grow the economy.

As part of his administration’s major “green” push, the president announced he had authorized leases of federal waters off the coasts to generate electricity from wind and water. He also said next week he is bringing together world leaders to talk about the “climate crisis,” adding that 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 - it’s a choice between prosperity and decline,” said Mr. Obama, citing global competitiveness several times.

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

Bill Fricke, 48, was among the laid-off Maytag workers who had worked on the production line. He was rehired as an assembly-line worker at Trinity.

“It’s a long ways from a washing machine to a wind tower, there’s a lot of difference and bigger parts, but I’m honored just to be working here again in my old plant,” Mr. Fricke told The Washington Times.

The event served a triple purpose - the president implored support for his environmental agenda while trumpeting new funding from his economic stimulus plan, but the state’s prominence in the presidential election process couldn’t be ignored.

Mr. Obama couldn’t help but mention the Iowa Democratic caucus, singling out for praise his early supporters who were there on his behalf back when “nobody could pronounce my name.”

Also Wednesday, three of his Cabinet secretaries were testifying on Capitol Hill as lawmakers consider a major energy bill this week.

Republican leaders say while they support efforts to invest in green jobs and reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, plans to curb carbon emissions are being rammed through too quickly.

“The American people deserve to know how this is all going to affect them,” said Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican and chairman of the House Republican Caucus’ energy working group. “They deserve an opportunity to count the cost of climate-change legislation.”

Mr. Obama dismissed critics who say his energy plans will be too costly, but emphasized that there will be costs to the nation and individuals. He said for too long Americans have shifted “from shock to indifference” as gas prices rise and fall.

Mr. Obama detailed his plan, which aims to set a cap on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by 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.

“There is no question that we have to regulate carbon pollution; the only question is how we do so,” warned Mr. Obama, without getting into specifics about how many of the carbon credits would be sold and how many would be given away free, a key sticking point.

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.

Mr. Obama mentioned nuclear power only briefly Wednesday, saying, “We also need to find safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste.”

The president still stresses any energy plan must be “comprehensive,” with money for biodiesel as well as solar panels.

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