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Obama, at Penn State, Expected to Introduce New Energy Proposals

on February 03, 2011 6:00 AM

Editor's note: StateCollege.com will be live-blogging the president's Penn State visit Thursday.

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President Barack Obama will introduce Thursday several new proposals to encourage energy efficiency in the private sector, senior administration officials said Wednesday.

Obama is due to unveil the specific proposals during a midday appearance at Penn State University Park, the officials said. The president is set to begin speaking at 12:15 p.m. at Rec Hall.

The event will be televised nationally by the Big Ten Network. Thousands of people are expected to attend.

"We believe that this initiative has the potential to unlock a large amount of investment" in energy-saving measures, one official said.

He said the proposals, included in Obama's upcoming federal budget plan, promise not only to help the environment, but also to reduce businesses' operating expenses and to create new jobs.

One goal, administration officials said, is to reduce commercial buildings' energy use by 20 percent in the coming decade.

The officials previewed the proposals in general terms. They include these:

  • More effective tax incentives for businesses that make energy-efficient upgrades to their facilities. Current incentives are outdated and not working as well as they could, administration officials said. They believe this proposal could spawn a tenfold increase in the tax-incentive usage, they said.
  • More available financing for business owners -- particularly small-business owners -- who want to install energy-efficient upgrades in their buildings. This effort would include loan guarantees to help hospitals, schools and commercial organizations alike.
  • A "Race to Green" competitive program for state and municipal governments. This would encourage elected officials to alter local building codes and emphasize energy efficiency, the administration officials said.
  • A partnership designed to provide training and tools for new jobs and opportunities in energy-efficiency work. Focal points would include energy auditing, building operations and engineering, administration officials said.
  • An overaching push for CEOs, university presidents and other leaders to upgrade facilities, reduce energy use and help create energy-related jobs. A public-private partnership on this front could give participants some support from the federal government, including access to technology and public recognition, the officials said.

They suggested that these proposals, if implemented, could help U.S. businesses and other organizations save about $40 billion in annual energy expenses.

But the administration officials did not indicate what the proposals might cost the government. Obama is committed to paying for new initiatives by "eliminating spending where we don't need it," they said.

More specifics will be forthcoming, according to administration officials. They said cuts in government subsidies for the oil and gas industries could help cover new expenses.

StateCollege.com will have ongoing coverage from Obama's Rec Hall appearance Thursday.

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