Obama: "It begins with energy."
In his address to Congress Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama emphasized how developing clean energy and improving efficiency is essential to rescuing the economy.
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I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."
Many environmentalists agree that energy efficiency and jobs can go hand in hand. Alluding to the part of Obama's energy agenda that includes a plan to weatherize 1 million homes annually, Lane Burt, an energy policy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council, said:
Retrofitting homes is a labor-intensive endeavor. An average home retrofit takes a crew of three people about five days to complete. There are 111 million homes in this country. We can cut consumption in these homes 30 to 50 percent or $700 to $1150 annually on average. Every four crews or so needs a project manager. Every retrofit company needs accountants, executives, salesmen, and administrative staff. They need legal advice, they need office supplies, and they need to advertise. The insulation, caulk and sealants, appliances, and mechanical systems they install have to be manufactured. The money that each person saves from being wasted on energy will be spent, supporting other industries and creating more jobs. Add to this projection the 4.8 million commercial buildings in this country, representing 72 million square feet of space.
The Washington Post's editorial board worries that, with these kinds of massive investments, the president is biting off more than he can chew. In a Wednesday editorial, expresses skepticism at Obama's ambitious plans:
We understand the president's instinct not to let short-term demands obscure the need to meet the country's long-term challenges. His priorities for fundamental reform, the causes that animated his campaign, are admirable ones. Yet we cannot help wondering: Isn't the most critical task to ensure a swift and effective response to the stomach-churning downturn? Does a new, understaffed administration have the capacity to try so much so fast? And does the political system have the bandwidth to accommodate all that Mr. Obama is asking from it?
Here's Obama's whole speech: