President Obama laid a significant chunk of his political capital on the table on Thursday, calling on House members to support the climate and energy bill that will go to a vote on Friday.
“Now it the time for us to lead. The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation of our economy,” said Obama in his brief remarks delivered in the White House Rose Garden. (Watch the video at cspan.org | Read the full text.)
“I urge every member of Congress, Democrat and Republican, to come together and support this legislation,” he said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of this vote.”
“I know this is going to be a close vote,” he added, but said his message is to members who are still on the fence. “We cannot be afraid of the future, and we can’t be prisoners of the past.”
Passing this bill, he said, fulfills an obligation to “our constituents our children, and to God’s creation.” His remarks stressed the energy independence and green job aspects of the bill, but also mentioned the climate benefits. “There is no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy,” he said.
Whether Obama’s call will sway the fence-sitters remains unclear. But the hope is that throwing his heft behind the bill will help it get the 218 votes needed to pass.
Legislators are also feeling pressure from another high-powered advocate, former vice president Al Gore, who has been calling fence-sitting legislators from his home base in Tennessee. Gore was scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday to rally support, but at the last minute the event was canceled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she determined that his presence was not needed to get the votes lined up, and he would be better off working the phones from afar.
“It’s a question of what was energy efficient for the vice president,” she said.
Related: White House press release on administration’s “Clean Energy Week” activities.
Full text of Obama’s remarks:
Hey, guys. Good afternoon. Right now, the House of Representatives is moving towards a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new clean energy economy.
For more than three decades, we’ve talked about our dependence on foreign oil. And for more than three decades, we’ve seen that dependence grow. We’ve seen our reliance on fossil fuels jeopardize our national security. We’ve seen it pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet. And most of all, we’ve seen that others countries realize a critical truth: The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.
Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this, as well. Now is the time for us to lead. The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation of our economy. It will spur the development of low-carbon sources of energy — everything from wind, solar, and geothermal power to safe nuclear energy and cleaner coal. It will spur new energy savings like the efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer.
And most importantly, it will make possible the creation of millions of new jobs. Now, make no mistake — this is a jobs bill. We’re already seeing why this is true in the clean energy investments we’re making through the Recovery Act. In California, 3,000 people will be employed to build a new solar plant that will create 1,000 jobs. In Michigan, investments in wind turbines and wind technology is expected to create over, 2,600 jobs. In Florida, three new solar projects are expected to employ 1,400 people.
The list goes on and on, but the point is this: This legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. That will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.
I’ve often talked about the need to build a new foundation for economic growth so that we don’t return to the endless cycle of bubble and bust that has led us into this deep recession. Clean energy and the jobs it creates will be absolutely critical to that new foundation
This legislation has also been written carefully to address the concerns that many have expressed in the past. Instead of increasing the deficit, it’s paid for by the polluters who currently emit dangerous carbon emissions. It provides assistance to businesses and families as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies. It gives rural communities and farmers the opportunity to participate in climate solutions and generate new income. And above all, it will protect consumers from the costs of this transition so that in a decade, the price to the average American will be about the same as a postage stamp per day.
Because this legislation is so balanced and sensible, it’s already attracted a remarkable coalition of consumer and environmental groups, labor and business leaders, Democrats and Republicans.
Now I urge every member of Congress — Democrat and Republican — to come together to support this legislation. I can’t stress enough the importance of this vote. I know this is going to be a close vote, in part because of the misinformation that’s out there that suggests there’s somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and our economic growth. But my call to those members of Congress who are still on the fence, as well as to the American people, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future, and we can’t be prisoners of the past. We’ve been talking about this issue for decades, and now is the time to finally act.
There’s no disagreement over whether our dependence on foreign oil is endangering our security; we know it is. There’s no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy; it’s happening. And there’s no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy. The only question is, which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America. And I believe that the American people and the men and women they sent to Congress share that view.
So let’s take this opportunity to come together and meet our obligations — to our constituents, to our children, to God’s creation, and to future generations. Thank you very much.