Obama pushes green jobs programs

Posted January 8, 2010 3:37 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2010 6:24 p.m. EST

— After a disappointing new unemployment report, President Barack Obama pushed on Friday for an expanded government program he said would help create tens of thousands of new clean-technology jobs.

"It's clear why such an effort is so important. Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future, jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced," Obama said at the White House.

It came as Obama sought to pivot back to the domestic economy after two weeks of being riveted to the Christmas Day bombing attempt. The larger-than-expected loss of 85,000 jobs in December, reported earlier in the day by the Labor Department, put new pressure on the administration to step up job creation.

"The road to recovery is never straight," Obama said, although he added that the trend is pointing in the right direction.

Figures released Friday showed unemployment stubbornly stuck at 10 percent. At the same time, more people were giving up in the search for jobs.

Obama announced the awarding of $2.3 billion in tax credits to companies that manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, cutting edge batteries and other green technologies. The money will come from last year's $787 billion stimulus program.

He also renewed a call by Vice President Al Gore for Congress to approve an additional $5 billion to help create more such jobs.

Obama said the tax credits would create some 17,000 green jobs.

Under the program, Durham-based Cree Inc. will get $39 million to boost production of high-efficiency lighting.

Trying to paint the White House as fighting to rebuild the economy, officials said the poor jobs report underscores the challenges the president faces.

"Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future," Obama said in a brief late-afternoon statement. "The Recovery Act awards I am announcing today will help close the clean energy gap that has grown between America and other nations while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security."

"There is no greater priority for this administration than getting Americans back to work," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a separate stement.

Obama announced tax credits for 183 projects to develop solar and wind power and energy management technologies, among others.

Meanwhile, a senior White House economist said the tanking economy is already showing signs of fresh life.

"Real recoveries come in fits and starts, and November was in some sense a start, and December was a little bit of a fit," Christina Romer, chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

She noted the new numbers are a tenth of the job losses from a year ago and predicted real job growth before the summer.

"We're starting to see stabilization in employment," she said. "Obviously, the next step is job growth. We're thinking we're going to see that by the spring."