U.S. President says USD 129 billion that has been allocated for environmental plans is off limits to Congress
Barack Obama declared on March 23rd the billions of dollars he is planning to spend on renewable energy projects off-limits to the usual bartering over the next few weeks with Congress.
The president, on the first day of a week-long blitz aimed at selling his ambitious USD 3 trillion (GBP 2 trillion) spending budget, said the USD 129 billion allocated for encouraging the use of solar power, hybrid cars and renewable energy projects would not be subject to any of the usual wheeling and dealing between the White House and Congress.
His pledge on clean energy came as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) made a potentially historic shift, telling the White House that global warming was endangering public health. It comes after years of resistance by George Bush.
The move by the EPA could lead to nationwide measures to limit carbon emissions in the U.S.
Defending his planned spending on renewable energy, Obama said: "We can remain the world's leader of exporting foreign oil or become the leading exporter of renewable energy... we have known the right choice for a generation."
He was speaking after meeting clean energy entrepreneurs at the White House today. Obama told them he hoped they could help the U.S. out of recession by creating 300,000 jobs, end dependency on oil from the Middle East and elsewhere and combat climate change. "At this moment of necessity, we need you," he said.
Republican and Democratic congressional members are growing increasingly sceptical about the scale of Obama's budget and he faces a fight preventing Congress cutting it back, with his energy plans among the most vulnerable measures.
The White House, in a factsheet issued on March 23, said his budget would provide USD 75 billion over the next 10 years to make permanent existing tax cuts for clean energy and that his USD 787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at helping the US out of recession included USD 39 billion for clean energy projects and USD 20 billion in tax incentives.
Jared Bernstein, a White House economics adviser, said Obama was prepared to negotiate details with clean energy entrepreneurs but not with Congress. Bernstein added that the administration was going to stand very firm on clean energy.
Obama is facing opposition to his budget from conservatively fiscal Democrats worried about the size of his spending plans and from Republicans opposed to plans to penalise high pollution companies.
As part of his big sell, Obama held a primetime television press conference on March 24 and met members of Congress on Capitol Hill on March 25.
On March 23, he pointed to projects involving energy storage, super-efficient engines, cheap solar cells, advanced batteries needed for hybrid cars and microchips that maximise energy savings.
Among projects on show at the White House were a light pipe that brings natural light indoors without consuming electricity and a window company that helps with energy savings. Obama said the latter had re-opened a disused factory in Pennsylvania and was taking on 100 workers.
But the White House could face problems in spending the money put aside to encourage clean energy as many firms in the sector have been laying people off.