Obama Adresses Clean Energy Workers In Pennsylvania
The president touched upon the difficulties he is currently facing in his attempts to pass a federal budget and avoid a government shutdown before taking questions from employees of at the factory.
(RELATED: What a government shutdown could mean for you.)
The first question the president fielded was about what the government planned to do to encourage the production of a smart energy grid.
The president joked about the comprehensive and eloquent manner in which the question was stated, asking the man’s fellow employees, “Does he talk like that all the time?”
Smart energy grids are very important, said the president, because a more efficient energy grid would allow the green energy industry to grow while simultaneously reducing pollution and energy costs in its own right.
The real difficulties in developing a new smart energy grid actually lie in the variability of zoning laws throughout states, counties and cities, said President Obama.
The need for cooperation between the different levels of government was highlighted, and the president said that the appearance of a smart grid may come in patches throughout the country.
The next question, though stated more simply, perhaps required a more complex answer.
One of the factory’s workers asked the president if anything would be done to lower oil prices.
Part of the reason that oil prices are going back up again is because the economy is picking up, said the president, and speculation by investors due to the unrest in the Middle East is also a contributing factor.
"There are a couple things we can do, but I am going to be honest with you, there is not much we can do about it next week,” Obama said.
"We have two or three percent of the world’s oil reserves, but we use 25 percent of the worlds oil," he said. "We can’t just drill our way out of the problem"
The president outlined three steps that we can take to reduce oil prices and our dependence on foreign oil.
The first step was to increase oil production, though the president stressed that increasing production is not a solution in and of itself, merely a stopgap measure.
The second and third steps both involved transportation, both the improvement of vehicle efficiency and the eventual shift to electric vehicles.
In addition to the above issues, the president touched upon education and manufacturing.
These two subjects were broached as separate questions, but the president’s answers drew a correlation between the two.
We are never going to compete on low wages, there will always be someplace cheaper, Obama said.
Getting high-end, high-skill jobs requires two things, manufacturers who make things requiring more educated workers and, plainly, more educated workers.
The president stressed that clean energy was an important part of this scenario, and that the United States should court clean energy industry to do their manufacturing and create those high-end jobs here.
One of the ways the to draw more manufacturers here would be to reform a tax system that, on paper, has extremely high taxes on corporations but in reality has so many loopholes that large corporations pay only a fraction of what they should, said the president.
A simpler and more efficient tax system would simplify and lower taxes for corporations, but eliminate loopholes.
“I want to kick-start this industry,” he said to the assembled clean energy employees.
However, the President stressed that all of the problems discussed at the gathering would not go away overnight.
Follow the author on Twitter.
E-mail the author.