THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
May 27, 2009
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Nellis Air Force Base
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Las Vegas, Nevada
Thank you, Senator Reid, for that generous introduction. Harry Reid has been a good friend, an outstanding Senate Majority Leader, and above all, a tireless fighter for the people of Nevada.
After all these years, he still brings the voices and values of Searchlight to the nation’s most important debates in Washington, DC – and we are better off because he does. It’s always a pleasure to escape from Washington for a few days, and there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week. Like millions of other Americans, we came to this beautiful city for the sights, for the sounds, and today, for the sun. Right now, we are standing on the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere.
More than 72,000 solar panels built on part of an old landfill provide about 25% of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work here at Nellis Air Force Base. That’s the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day. It’s a project that took about half a year to complete, created 200 jobs, and will save the U.S. Air Force, which is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, nearly $1 million a year. It will also reduce harmful carbon pollution by 24,000 tons a year, which is the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from our roads.
Most importantly, this base serves as a shining example of what’s possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth. That’s the kind of foundation we’re trying to build all across America. One hundred days ago, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in half a century, we passed the most sweeping economic recovery act in history – a plan designed to save jobs, create new ones, and put money in people’s pockets. It’s a plan designed to not only revive the economy in the short-term, but rebuild the economy in the long-term. And it’s a plan that we passed thanks to the tireless effort of the man who introduced me.
Harry Reid moved the Recovery Act through Congress with the skill, tenacity, and urgency of someone who knew that millions of struggling families were depending on it. And I am eternally grateful to him and every Member of Congress who helped pass this plan. One hundred days later, we are already seeing results. And today, we’re releasing a report that details the progress we’ve made in every region of the country. In these last few months, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs – jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; making homes and buildings more energy-efficient. They are the jobs of teachers and police officers and nurses.
They are jobs fixing roads and bridges; jobs at start-ups and small businesses; and jobs that will put thousands of young Americans to work this summer. Ninety-five percent of all working families saw their take-home pay increase because of the tax cut we provided. Fifty-four million seniors received $250 extra in their Social Security checks. Laid-off workers have received greater unemployment benefits and paid less for their health care. For the thousands of families whose homes have been made more energy-efficient, it has also saved them about $350 on their energy bills. Other Americans have saved thousands by taking advantage of the tax credits the Recovery Act has provided for the purchase of a new home, a new fuel-efficient car, or energy-efficient cooling and heating systems, windows, and insulation. And all of this has fueled demand that is helping businesses put more Americans back to work. But this is just the beginning. There are still too many Americans out of work, and too many who worry that their job may be next.
There are still too many families struggling to pay the bills, and too many businesses struggling to keep their doors open. That is why we will continue to implement the Recovery Act as quickly and effectively as possible over the next two years. And that is why my administration will continue an unrelenting, day-by-day effort to fight for economic recovery on all fronts. And yet, even as we continue to clear away the wreckage of this recession, I have also said that our next task is to ensure that such a crisis never happens again. We cannot return to a bubbleand-bust economy based on maxed-out credit cards, overleveraged banks, and financial profits that were only real on paper. We have to lay a new foundation for prosperity – a foundation constructed on pillars that will grow our economy and help America compete in the 21st century. A renewable energy revolution is one of those pillars.
We know the cost of our oil addiction all too well. It’s the cost measured by the billions of dollars we send to nations with unstable or unfriendly regimes. It’s the cost of our vulnerability to the volatility of the oil markets. It’s the cost we feel in shifting weather patterns that are already causing unprecedented droughts and more intense storms. And it’s a cost we cannot bear any longer. Today, projects like the one at Nellis are still the exception to the rule. America produces less than three percent of our electricity through renewable sources of energy like wind and solar.
Meanwhile, Denmark produces 20 percent of their electricity through wind. We pioneered solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in generating it – even though they get less sun than we do. So we have a choice. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can hand over the jobs of the future to our competitors, or we can confront what they have already recognized as the great opportunity of our time: the nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. That’s the nation I want America to be.
Already, we’ve made more progress on this front in the last four months than we have in the last three decades. Last week, we brought auto executives, labor unions, environmental groups, Democrats, and Republicans together to set the toughest-ever national fuel-efficiency standard for our cars and trucks – a standard that will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. In Congress, leaders like Harry Reid are also working to pass an historic energy plan that will help end our dependence on foreign oil while preventing the worst consequences of climate change.
It’s a plan that will create a system of clean energy incentives that will create good, American jobs and crack down on polluters who pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink. Finally, by the end of the next two years, the Recovery Act will have enabled a doubling of our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy by investing in projects just like the one at this air force base. And today, I’m announcing the availability of funding for two Recovery Act programs that will help us reach that goal.
The first is a solar energy technologies program that will help replicate the success of the Nellis project in cities and states across America – because in this case, what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas. We’ll invest in the development and deployment of solar technology wherever it can thrive and we’ll find the best way to integrate solar power into our electric grid. The second program I’m announcing will help develop the use of geothermal energy in America. As many of you in Nevada know, geothermal energy is literally defined as “heat from the earth.” This heat can then be harnessed as a clean, affordable, and reliable source of energy.
Already, Nevada has seventeen industrial scale geothermal plants, and your capacity to generate this type of power is expected to increase in the next few years. The program we’re announcing will help accelerate this process – here, and across America. That will create more jobs, more businesses, and more affordable electricity for the American people. From where we stand today, the road to economic recovery is still long. And the road to a new, clean energy economy is even longer. But after four months of this administration and one hundred days of the Recovery Act, we have carved out a path toward progress. It’s a path that begins in places just like Nellis, where ordinary citizens tap into their sense of innovation and ingenuity to reinvent the world around them. This base has been known as “The Home of the Fighter Pilot.”
Now it’s the home of the largest solar energy installation of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Such is the story in cities and towns across America, where a shuttered factory re-opens to build wind turbines; where a hospital treats patients with new technology and pulls up their history with new electronic records; where a young entrepreneur with a nest egg and a good idea starts a business and creates more jobs.
This is how we move forward in America. This is how we’ve always moved forward. It happens slowly, in fits and starts, but always surely. It happens not by chance or by luck, but because the American people keep pushing ahead – persevering through hardship, growing through challenge, and building something firmer and stronger in place of what was. That is the work we’ve begun in these last few months, and with your help, that is the work we will continue in the days and months ahead. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.