Amid Focus On Spill, Obama Touts Alternative Energy President Obama's visit Wednesday to a solar cell factory in California is part of a broader push to promote alternative forms of energy. But in the wake of the massive Gulf oil spill, some observers say Obama is missing an opportunity for even stronger action.
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Amid Focus On Spill, Obama Touts Alternative Energy

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Amid Focus On Spill, Obama Touts Alternative Energy

Amid Focus On Spill, Obama Touts Alternative Energy

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: White House economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, says that's allowing Solyndra to build a new solar cell factory employing 3,000 construction workers and creating 1,000 permanent jobs.

JARED BERNSTEIN: But what's happening at Solyndra isn't just about new jobs today, it's about new industries tomorrow. What's more, these new industries are in the business of clean, renewable energy, thus invoking environmental benefits while reducing our dependence on foreign imports of fossil fuels.

HORSLEY: Last week, President Obama also called for higher fuel economy standards for cars and trucks of the future. He says it's important to stretch every gallon of oil as far as it can go.

BARACK OBAMA: And the disaster in the Gulf only underscores that, even as we pursue domestic production to reduce our reliance on imported oil, our long-term security depends on the development of alternative sources of fuel and new transportation technologies.

HORSLEY: Political adviser David Axelrod said on MSNBC, this week, that effort could get a lift from the oil spill.

DAVID AXELROD: I would like to think that this will increase the sense of urgency in Congress, because it underscores the value in developing alternative sources of energy. So, I hope that it will give added impetus. We're going to press very hard.

HORSLEY: Energy expert Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations says that may be going too far.

MICHAEL LEVI: 9/11 made terrorism and the Middle East number one on every American's agenda. The oil spill has not made oil and energy number one on every American's agenda this time. And that gives the president a much more difficult situation to work with.

HORSLEY: Levi says passing a big energy bill isn't like financial regulation, where the administration successfully channeled public anger with Wall Street into new legislation. Although the public is angry at BP, he says, that won't necessarily translate into support for, say, a new carbon tax.

LEVI: It simply is not intuitively clear to anyone in this country, why you need to do something that addresses coal power plants and that changes electricity rates because of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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