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President Obama touts green energy in Iowa Earth Day visit

Agriculture.com Staff 04/22/2009 @ 4:12pm

On Earth Day, President Barack Obama came to Newton, Iowa to tour a wind tower plant owned by Trinity Industries of Dallas, Texas, then urged about 150 government officials and company employees to support a dramatic shift in how the nation fuels its economy.

"We can remain the world's leading importer of oil or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy," Obama said in a televised appearance intended for a much wider audience.

The cavernous building where Obama spoke once churned out Maytag appliances and now produces about 300 steel towers used to hold up General Electric wind turbines that have been shipped to new electricity generation projects in North Dakota and Illinois.

Obama announced that the Interior Department plans to lease federal land and ocean waters for energy development from wind and ocean currents.

Obama said that for the nation to retain its economic leadership in the world, it needs to put more effort into developing a mix of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and biofuels. But the nation also needs to do a better job of conserving energy, he said. The federal stimulus legislation is providing grants to states to help weatherize homes, which should save about $350 a year in energy costs. "That's like a $350 tax credit," he said.

And individual actions can make a big difference, too. If every home owner in the U.S. would just switch one incandescent light bulb for a more efficient compact fluorescent bulb, "that could save enough energy to light three million homes," he said.

Some of the Administration's push for less dependence on fossil fuels has already gotten a start from funding in the stimulus bill, but the Administration is proposing more spending on energy development and conservation it its proposed budget for 2010.

'SHOCK TO INDIFFERENCE' -- President Barack Obama talks about the need for the U.S. to move forward with domestic renewable energy generation during his Earth Day visit to Newton, Iowa, on Wednesday (video by Dan Looker).

Obama also made a pitch for climate change legislation.

"Now there's been some debate about this whole climate change issue, but it's serious," Obama said. "It could end up having an impact on farmers like Rich," he added, referring to the plant's maintenance manager, Richard Mulbrook, who introduced the President. Mulbrook also farms part-time, raising corn, soybeans, cattle and horses with his father and son.

Obama reminded his listeners that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to regulate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide as a threat to human health. But that's not his preferred approach, he said.

"I believe the best way to do it is through legislation that places a market, places a cap on this kind of pollution," he said.

On Earth Day, President Barack Obama came to Newton, Iowa to tour a wind tower plant owned by Trinity Industries of Dallas, Texas, then urged about 150 government officials and company employees to support a dramatic shift in how the nation fuels its economy.

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