RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
President Obama and his administration are out in force this week making the case for clean energy as a way to create jobs and help the planet. The administration is hoping for progress on two fronts: an energy bill in the Senate that would crack down on carbon pollution from traditional fossil fuels and a global climate conference that will be held in Copenhagen in December. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.
SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama kicked off the clean energy blitz in rural southwestern Florida, standing in front of 180 acres of brand-new solar cells, enough to power some 3,000 homes.
President BARACK OBAMA: Now, for the very first time, a large-scale solar power plant, the largest of its kind in the entire nation, will deliver electricity produced by the sun to the citizens of the Sunshine State. And I think it's about time.
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HORSLEY: Like many clean energy projects, this one in DeSoto County, Florida is located a long way from population centers. Getting the power from where it's generated to where it's needed can be a challenge, given the nation's antiquated electric grid. Mr. Obama likened it to the road system of the last century, before the government invested in the Interstate Highway System.
Pres. OBAMA: Now it's time to make the same kind of investment in the way our energy travels to build a clean energy superhighway that can take the renewable power generated in places like DeSoto and deliver it directly to the American people in the most affordable and efficient way possible.
HORSLEY: The administration announced nearly three-and-a-half billion dollars in federal grants yesterday to stimulate grid modernization. While Mr. Obama was touting grid improvements in Florida, Vice President Biden was in Delaware celebrating the planned reopening of an old General Motors plant to build plug-in hybrids with help from a half-billion-dollar federal loan.
Vice President JOE BIDEN: We're making a bet on the future. We're making a bet on the American people. We're making a bet on the market. We're making a bet on innovation. And today, today is the first evidence that that bet is starting to pay off. Thank you.
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HORSLEY: While the administration's using carrots to encourage cleaner forms of energy, the Senate's begun to consider some sticks to limit the greenhouse gases produced by traditional fuels. With global climate talks set to begin in Copenhagen in December, the U.S. is eager to demonstrate some leadership on the issue. Three Obama Cabinet secretaries were on hand yesterday as the Senate environment committee began debating a climate change bill.
Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry said there would be some cost to the measure, but he warned the price of inaction would be much higher.
Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): We risk catastrophic changes to the climate, to our crops, to our water supply, to the ocean currents, to the ecosystems that we depend on. The science is screaming at us to take action.
HORSLEY: Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe is a vocal skeptic about climate change. He questioned whether the proposed fix would be worth it.
Senator JAMES INHOFE (Republican, Oklahoma): Cap and trade is very expensive. That's something that American people can't tolerate, and I don't believe they will.
HORSLEY: Estimates from the EPA and the Congressional Budget Office put the cost for a typical family at between 100 and $200 a year.
Back in Florida, President Obama sounded upbeat about the bill's prospects. But the president cautioned the closer the country gets to a clean energy economy, the harder opponents will fight.
Pres. OBAMA: It's a debate between looking backwards and looking forward, between those who are ready to seize the future and those who are afraid of the future. And we know which side the United States of America has always come down on.
HORSLEY: The president warned that progress would require all hands on deck, a message the members of his administration seem to have gotten this week.
Scott Horsley, NPR News.
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