WASHINGTON Feb 9 U.S. President Barack Obama
on Monday pushed for more investment in solar and wind energy,
saying the country that can make renewable energy sources
price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels will become the
economic superpower of the future.
Obama, speaking at a townhall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana,
said renewable energy companies needed tax breaks and loan
guarantees to provide incentives for firms to manufacture and
customers to purchase solar and wind energy.
Obama acknowledged that while the cost of producing
electricity by wind and solar has declined, it is still cheaper
to generate power from plants fueled by coal or natural gas.
However, Obama said he wanted the government to invest
every year in new technologies to drive down renewable energy
costs over the long term.
"The country that figures out how to make cheaper energy
that's also clean, that country is going to win the economic
competition of the future," he said.
The roughly $800 billion stimulus package pending in
Congress to revive the American economy includes billions of
dollars in tax breaks and other financial incentives to boost
the use of renewable energy.
They are intended to ensure solar and wind energy companies
have steady business.
Obama called on Congress to require U.S. utilities to
generate a certain amount of their electricity supplies, such
as 15 to 20 percent, from renewable energy sources.
He said that, once such a benchmark is set, then renewable
energy companies can "count on a pretty solid market that
they're going to be able to sell their energy to."
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was
scheduled to hold a hearing on Tuesday on draft legislation
that would set a national renewable energy standard.
Under the bill, the amount of the U.S. electricity supply
coming from renewable energy resources would gradually increase
to 4 percent by 2012, 8 percent by 2015, 12 percent by 2018, 16
percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2039.
Obama also pledged to double U.S. renewable energy
production within the next three years.
(Editing by Walter Bagley)