Obama Radio Address: ‘GOP Pledge Would Shut Down Clean Energy Jobs’

October 2, 2010

Radio Address, transcript:

Over the past twenty months, we’ve been fighting not just to create more jobs today, but to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation. Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America. And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.

For decades, we’ve talked about the importance of ending our dependence on foreign oil and pursuing new kinds of energy, like wind and solar power. But for just as long, progress had been prevented at every turn by the special interests and their allies in Washington.

So, year after year, our dependence on foreign oil grew. Families have been held hostage to spikes in gas prices. Good manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. And we’ve seen companies produce new energy technologies and high-skilled jobs not in America, but in countries like China, India and Germany.

…There is no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.

It was essential – for our economy, our security, and our planet – that we finally tackle this challenge. That is why, since we took office, my administration has made an historic commitment to promote clean energy technology. This will mean hundreds of thousands of new American jobs by 2012. Jobs for contractors to install energy-saving windows and insulation. Jobs for factory workers to build high-tech vehicle batteries, electric cars, and hybrid trucks. Jobs for engineers and construction crews to create wind farms and solar plants that are going to double the renewable energy we can generate in this country. These are jobs building the future.

BrightSource solar plant (artist's conception)

For example, I want share with you one new development, made possible by the clean energy incentives we have launched. This month, in the Mojave Desert, a company called BrightSource plans to break ground on a revolutionary new type of solar power plant. It’s going to put about a thousand people to work building a state-of-the-art facility. And when it’s complete, it will turn sunlight into the energy that will power up to 140,000 homes – the largest such plant in the world. Not in China. Not in India. But in California.

With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy. And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.

Now there are some in Washington who want to shut them down. In fact, in the Pledge they recently released, the Republican leadership is promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway – even with all the jobs and potential that they hold.

This doesn’t make sense for our economy. It doesn’t make sense for Americans who are looking for jobs. And it doesn’t make sense for our future. To go backwards and scrap these plans means handing the competitive edge to China and other nations. It means that we’ll grow even more dependent on foreign oil. And, at a time of economic hardship, it means forgoing jobs we desperately need. In fact, shutting down just this one project would cost about a thousand jobs.

That’s what’s at stake in this debate. We can go back to the failed energy policies that profited the oil companies but weakened our country. We can go back to the days when promising industries got set up overseas. Or we can go after new jobs in growing industries. And we can spur innovation and help make our economy more competitive. We know the choice that’s right for America. We need to do what we’ve always done – put our ingenuity and can do spirit to work to fight for a brighter future.


Fact Sheet on the President’s Clean Energy Radio Address

Colorado Gov Signs Renewable Energy Jobs Bill

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has made it official: By 2020, utilities in that state must generate 30% of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. As reported here recently, the Colorado legislature passed HB 1001 to upgrade its Renewable Energy Standard (RES) on March 8th, with strong public support.

Only California has a more aggressive RES: 33% by 2020.

Colorado’s new rules also support distributed power, with a requirement that 3% of electricity comes from home and business solar arrays.

Colorado Raises International Energy Profile

Also on Monday, Leocadia Zak, director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, announced that Colorado would be hosting two renewable energy trade mission with representatives from Latin America.

The “Clean Energy Exchange Program for the Americas-Wind” takes place May 22-29, with meetings held in Golden, CO; Dallas, TX; and Washington, DC.

The “Clean Energy Exchange Program for the Americas-Solar” event will be held October 9-16, with stops in Golden, Los Angeles and DC.

According to Zak, the trade missions are part of the National Export Initiative created by President Obama on March 11. The NEI goal is to double US exports in the next five years.

“As part of the International Business Partnership Program,” explained Zak in Denver on Monday, “the purpose of these reverse trade missions is to bring buyers to the United States.”

Saguaro Solar Thermal Plant

While the Arizona state legislature attempted to end the state’s RES program recently, there is mounting pressure on the Arizona Corporation Commission to at least match Colorado’s standard or risk falling farther behind in the expanding green jobs/green energy movement.

Arizona has been sending mixed signals about its desire to play a leadership role in moving to a renewable energy economy.

Governor Jan Brewer, who assumed office when President Obama named then-Governor Janet Napolitano to head up the Department of Homeland Security, in 2009 signed into law a bill providing tax credits for manufacturers of renewable energy equipment relocating to the state.

Cut and Run

Last month, Brewer prohibited Arizona from participating in a seven-state regional climate program. Sandy Bahr, head of the Sierra Club’s state chapter, called the move “embarrassing for the state of Arizona….It demonstrates a real lack of understanding of how significant of a threat climate change is to the state. We ought to be standing at the front of the line to look at solutions.”

Benjamin Grumbles

Brewer’s top environmental official defended the action. “Arizona needs a green-and-grow approach rather than a cap-and-trade approach,” said Benjamin Grumbles, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Grumbles was a top official at the federal Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, an administration known for its opposition to environmental regulations.

“Arizona needs a green-and-grow approach rather than a cap-and-trade approach,” ADEQ Director Benjamin Grumbles

UPDATE: Arizona Bill Would End Key Support for Solar

RES at Work: Grand Canyon Ntl. Park (AZ)

UPDATE: Read updated version “Arizona Set to Abandon Leadership on Solar Power. Big Winner: China” in OnEarth magazine

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Just seven months after Arizona enacted a law that supporters said would help make the state the “solar capital” of the nation, new legislation has been introduced that opponents maintain could kill the nascent industry.

House bill 2701 “would surely be the death knell for advancing solar energy in the state,” Kris Mayes, chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, told the Phoenix Business Journal on Friday.

The bill would define “renewable” to include nuclear power (despite the fact that nuclear plants need to be refueled periodically). That change would end what many experts consider the most effective incentive for installing solar and wind generation: the Renewable Energy Standard (RES).

Under current law, the Arizona Corporation Commission’s RES mandates that utilities must generate 15 percent of electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025. Since the state’s largest utility, APS, already gets approximately 27 percent of its electricity from a nuclear power plant outside of Phoenix, HB 2701 would allow the company to stop adding any new renewable power sources.

Sean Seitz, president of American Solar Electric, one of the largest solar installers in the valley, agreed with Mayes’ assessment of HB 2701. “If this bill passed in its current form,” predicted Seitz, “the current program…would be a skeleton of itself.”

The bill would make Arizona the only state that includes existing nuclear power plants in an RES.

Sponsors say that solar projects would continue even without the RES. A 2007 study from the Berkeley National Laboratory, however, appears to contradict that claim.

The report compared actual solar installations made between 2000 and 2006 in states with and without an RES supporting solar (California was excluded from the study because of its other progressive solar policies).

The difference is clear in the chart below. States with an RES had more than double the solar installations of states lacking such a mandate. (Currently, 32 states and Washington DC have some form of RES.)

The Role of RES in Installed Solar

RES Boosts Arizona Jobs, Technology Innovation

Saguaro Solar Thermal Plant

In 2001, Arizona was one of the first states to adopt an RES. The policy has taken new solar technologies from the drawing board to reality and attracted jobs in solar manufacturing, installation and R&D.

The Saguaro Solar Generating Station

On Earth Day, 2006, APS dedicated the first solar trough system built in the US since 1990. The 1-MW Sagauro station uses giant mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a tube filled with mineral oil. That oil boils an organic liquid, which turns turbine to produce electricity. The Saguaro facility uses six rows of 15-foot-tall mirrors.

According to an APS spokesman, Arizona’s RES “was a major catalyst for the for the solar trough project. We realized that we needed something on a large scale if we were going to meet the goals.”

The maker of the solar receivers used at Saguaro underscored the important role the RES played in developing the solar thermal station.

“The Saguaro Power plant is a significant step forward for Arizona as it seeks to reach its goal of generating 15 percent of its electricity from renewable resources within the next 20 years,” said Udo Ungeheuer, chairman of the Schott Management Board.

The Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration called the Saguaro project “the solar comeback story of the year.”

Now, by removing the RES incentive, HB 2107 could be Arizona’s solar fall-behind story of the year. A look at the reasons behind a recent Arizona industry victory shows why.

In November, 2009, Chinese solar manufacturing giant, Suntech Power, announced plans to build the company’s first North American plant in Arizona, with production to begin later this year. In a press release, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in China said it “selected the Greater Phoenix area for its plant because of Arizona’s leadership in research through Arizona State University, and statewide renewable energy policies, particularly its Renewable Energy Standard…”

Arizona Jobs and Renewable Energy Growth

Nationally, several studies have shown the potential for job growth through expanding renewable energy — providing cleaner air, fighting climate change and expanding employment at the same time. Last year, a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists examined the link between states with strong RES requirements and the growth of renewable power (and, so, jobs).

RES Powers Megawatts

The study found that if states achieve their RES targets, 76,759 MW of new renewable power capacity will be in place by 2025 — enough electricity to power 47 million homes. HB 2701 would remove Arizona from this pattern of growth.


Click on image to download bill (pdf)

Despite the considerations above, the bill appears likely to pass in both the Arizona House and Senate. HB 2701 has 52 sponsors and co-sponsors, including Senate President Robert Burns and Speaker of the House Kirk Adams. (Both are primary sponsors of the bill.)

HB 2701 will almost certainly sail through the two committees to which it’s been assigned: Government and Rules.

The House Government Committee is chaired by Representative Judy Burges (R), one of the bill’s sponsors. Five of the remaining eight members are also Republicans — and also sponsors of HB 2701. None of the Democrats on the committee are sponsors, but there are only three of them.

The committee will take up HB 2701 this Tuesday, February 23, at 2:00 PM Mountain Time.

Next it moves to the House Rules committee where the track appears to be just as fast:

The chairman is Rep. Warde Nichols (R), a sponsor of the bill. The House Speaker, Kirk Adams, a sponsor, sits on the eight-member committee. That leaves six members — three are Republicans (and sponsors). One of the three Democrats, Rep. Jack Brown, is a co-sponsor of HB 2701, leaving only two non-sponsors on the committee.

Check back for updates; The Phoenix Sun will continue to cover HB 2701.