Turning Towards The Domestic Agenda, Obama Pitches for Energy-Efficient Building

Feb 3, 2011 3:11pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: 

Focusing on domestic issues this afternoon in Pennsylvania, even as the situation in Egypt rages on, President Obama announced the “Better Building Initative” to make American commercial businesses more energy-efficient.

The president admitted that energy-efficient buildings “may not sound too sexy” but tried to spice it up a little for the Penn State crowd by saying that it is “one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs.”

Standing in front of a “Winning the Future” backdrop, a term coined in his State of the Union address last month, the president pushed the agenda of out-innovation, unveiling new initiatives that he said will make it easier for businesses overcome the barriers of investing in innovation.

“If you're willing to make your buildings more energy efficient, we'll provide new tax credits and financing opportunities for you to do so,” Obama said. “So you show us the best ideas to change your game on the ground; we'll show you the money.”

The president gave what he called an “extreme example,” the Empire State Building whose owners are investing in renovations that will reduce their energy consumption. The investment will soon pay for itself and will save them $4.4 million a year in energy costs. The president issues a challenge to CEOs, to labor, to building owners, hospitals, universities and others to join in.

“So we're telling scientists and we're telling engineers all across the country that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields and focus on tackling the biggest obstacles to clean, abundant and affordable energy, then we're going to get behind their work. We as a country will invest in them. We'll get them all in one place, and we'll support their research. “

The goals: to achieve a 20% improvement in energy-efficiency by 2020, reduce energy bills for companies and business by about $40 billion annually, and save energy by creating new incentives and challenging the private sector to serve as a catalyst for progress.

One of the president’s initiatives to reach that goal is to create new and more effective tax incentives for building owners who are looking to make investments and upgrades in their buildings to save energy.

The White House says the existing tax codes incentives are “outdated and they aren’t working as effectively as they could be.” The budget will propose a new tax credit that they hope will increase by ten-fold the take of the credit over the coming years. To pay for it, the president proposed eliminating tax breaks for oil companies to pay for tax incentives.

“They are doing just fine on their own,” Obama said of the oil companies, “So it's time to stop That's what our project is.

The president noted that he may be putting pressure on people, especially young people, to boost innovation.

“You understand that it's not going to be a cakewalk, this competition for the future, which means all of us are going to have to up our game. We are going to have to win the future by being smarter and working harder and working together.”

With a nod to Coach Paterno in the crowd, with over 400 wins under his belt, President Obama said the nation needs wins too.

“We need you to be as proud of what you do in the lab as you are of what your football team does on the field.”

-Sunlen Miller


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