By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009
President Obama touted his clean energy and economic stimulus plans yesterday at an Air Force base near Las Vegas, pointing to the base's vast array of solar panels as a model for the nation as it seeks to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
Obama, visiting Nellis Air Force Base between fundraising events in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, toured the largest solar power plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, a collection of more than 72,000 panels built on 140 acres, including part of an old landfill. The plant, a public-private venture that cost $100 million to build, generates about a quarter of the electricity used on the base, where 12,000 people live and work.
The president said the project took half a year to complete, created 200 jobs and will save the Air Force, the federal government's largest energy consumer, nearly $1 million a year while also reducing carbon pollution by 24,000 tons a year, the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from U.S. roads.
"This base serves as a shining example of what's possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth," Obama said in a speech to airmen, base workers and their family members.
He announced stimulus funding for two projects aimed at helping reach his goal of doubling the nation's renewable-energy capacity in two years.
"The first is a solar energy technologies program that will help replicate the success of the Nellis project in cities and states across America -- because in this case, what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas," Obama said. "We'll invest in the development and deployment of solar technology wherever it can thrive, and we'll find the best ways to integrate solar power into our electric grid."
He said the second program will help develop geothermal energy across the country, building on the technology's success in Nevada, which has 17 industrial-scale geothermal plants.
Obama also touted the results so far of his $787 billion stimulus package, which includes about $476 million for expanding and accelerating the development of solar and geothermal energy.
Citing an administration report released yesterday that details stimulus spending and its effects across the country, he said the package already has saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs in various sectors of the economy.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele disputed Obama's progress report, which he dismissed as a public relations gambit.
"One hundred days after spending $787 billion of the taxpayers' money, President Obama is touting a second progress 'report' on the stimulus bill to convince voters his reckless spending plan is working," Steele said in a statement. "Let's be clear: 100 projects, nearly $1 trillion spent, and 1 million jobs lost doesn't sound like progress to me. The Obama administration may believe its own spin, but American families want jobs and to keep more of what they earn, not another 'report.' "