Obama Discusses Green Jobs In N.C.

President Obama is wagering that green technologies will create the jobs of the future. He took that message to North Carolina Monday.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

Jobs, jobs and green jobs. President Obama spoke today at an energy-efficient lighting plant in Durham, North Carolina. With the economy showing new signs of weakness, the president has been stepping up his efforts to convince Americans that he has a plan to turn it around.

As NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports, growth in green jobs has been at the center of the president's economic agenda.

MARA LIASSON: In Durham today, the president met with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council. He unveiled a new plan to train 10,000 new American engineers every year. He also toured the factory floor of Cree, a leading manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lighting, and he praised the company's employees.

President BARACK OBAMA: So you're helping to lead a clean energy revolution. You're helping lead the comeback of American manufacturing.

(Soundbite of clapping)

Pres. OBAMA: This is a company where the future will be won.

LIASSON: Cree has received money through the president's stimulus plan, tax credits to hire new workers and a grant from the Department of Energy. Not all those new workers are in Durham, however. In advance of the president's visit, the Republican National Committee sent out a press release pointing out that half of Cree's workers now live and work in Huizhou, China.

But the bigger problem for the president is that even after hundreds of millions of dollars and dozens of events touting green technology, he doesn't have too many green jobs to show for his efforts. According to the White House, 225,000 clean energy jobs have been either created or preserved through the third quarter of 2010. But that estimate is impossible to verify.

That leaves the president with a difficult task. He has to find a way to talk about the larger economy and 9.1 percent unemployment in a way that connects with Americans who are struggling, while at the same time projecting hope about the future. Here's how he tried to strike that balance today.

Pres. OBAMA: We've added more than 2 million private sector jobs over the last 15 months alone.

(Soundbite of clapping)

Pres. OBAMA: But I'm still not satisfied. I will not be satisfied till everyone who wants a good job that offers some security has a good job that offers security.

LIASSON: The president said he was optimistic about the future. But when the employment numbers fell off a cliff last month, it was the Republicans who were left the most optimistic about their future in the presidential election next year. Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, put it this way at a Bloomberg breakfast in Washington last week.

Mr. REINCE PRIEBUS (Chairman, Republican National Committee): We all know the statistics. President Obama cannot possibly win re-election with this economy in the ditch. And that's sad news for our country that our economy is in the position it's in. But for our party, it provides us an enormous opportunity to defeat him in 2012.

LIASSON: And there's no Republican candidate that a bad economy helps more than Mitt Romney. He's decided to spend less time trying to convince the party's social conservatives that he's one of them, and he is instead trying to focus like a laser on jobs.

Romney has said he wants to hang the bad economy around President Obama's neck. Today, a new Web video from the Romney campaign shows a bunch of out-of-work Americans - all Romney supporters - lying in the middle of a road in a desert.

(Soundbite of campaign video)

Pres. OBAMA: There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery.

Unidentified Male #1: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.

Unidentified Male #2: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.

Unidentified Male #3: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.

LIASSON: This is the kind of attack President Obama should get used to. It will be the foundation of the Republican message no matter who's the nominee in 2012.

From North Carolina, the president moves on to a different sort of economic discussion. He'll be speaking at three Democratic Party fundraisers tonight in Miami, Florida, as he tries to refill his coffers for next year's campaign.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House.

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