Iowa Public Television


President Barack Obama Celebrates Earth Day in Iowa

posted on April 24, 2009

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Despite government efforts to boost the money supply and suppress interest rates, a private group's assessment of economic vitality fell more than expected last month.

The New York-based Conference Board announced this week its monthly index of leading economic indicators fell 0.3 percent in March, marking its 9th consecutive monthly decline.

According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales fell 3 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.6 million units. New home sales fell just over one-half of one percent.

Meanwhile, General Motors, which received another advance of $2 billion from Uncle Sam this week, announced it will temporarily close 13 assembly plants this summer in the U.S. and Mexico, laying off more than 26,000 workers.

And the Commerce Department reported orders for durable goods dropped 0.8 percent last month. Though negative, the decline was about half of what many economists expected and likely will be welcomed by manufacturers.

But on Earth Day, President Obama cited the rebirth of a once-shuttered manufacturing plant as evidence that America's investment in renewable energy is good for the environment AND the economy.

President Barack Obama Celebrates Earth Day in Iowa

President Barack Obama: "So on this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America. That's why I'm here."

Celebrating Earth Day in the Corn Belt this week, President Barack Obama outlined what he calls a step towards "21st Century American Energy." Standing amidst massive wind turbine bases, Obama reflected upon the tough economic times in Newton, Iowa. The small Midwestern town's major employer, Maytag, once employed 4000 workers on its bustling washer and dryer assembly lines. The plant closed in 2007, but today one of its buildings is home to the Trinity Structural Towers assembly plant for wind turbine bases. Nearby company TPI Composites opened in 2008 and hired more than one hundred workers who turbine blades.

President Barack Obama: "These floors were dark and silent. The only signs of a once thriving enterprise were the cement markings where the equipment had been before they were boxed up and carted away. Look at what we see here today. This facility is alive again with new industry."

While Obama's speech centered largely on the unique situation of Newton's new employer Trinity Structural Towers, much of the address focused on legislative proposals. The President outlined a massive cap-and-trade plan that, if passed, would commoditize Co2 emissions.

President Obama: "…we'd create a market where companies could buy and sell the right to produce a certain amount of carbon pollution. And in this way, every company can determine for itself whether it makes sense to spend the money to become cleaner or more efficient, or to spend the money on a certain amount of allowable pollution."

But the Obama Administration's cap-and-trade proposal is not without critics. Many Republican lawmakers and business interests are concerned that additional taxes on carbon dioxide could hamper an economic comeback or send some business sectors into bankruptcy.

Nevertheless, some energy companies are hoping to profit. Business conglomerate General Electric, a major player in wind energy, hopes to turn a cap-and-trade program into earnings.

Victor Abate, GE Vice President Renewable Energy: "You need to monetize carbon and that will reflect in the technology structure and the true value of alternative technologies like wind and solar. Without monetizing the value of greenhouse gases, you're comparing apples to oranges from a technology perspective."

Regardless of any cap-and trade initiative from Washington, Newton's Mayor says wind power is here to stay.

Mayor Chaz Allen, Newton, Iowa: "To have some recovery this early is a good thing in our community. With Trinity and TPI, that's 700 jobs within two or three months of Maytag's closure. Wind energy and renewable fuels will be a big part of our future in the community."


Tags: alternative energy Barack Obama economy Energy/Environment holidays news presidents wind wind power