Transcript of White House Interview on Climate-Change Bill

Sunday, June 28, 2009; 6:37 PM

A transcript provided by the White House of a roundtable interview with President Obama, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Carol Browner, assistant to the president on energy and climate change.

Oval Office

12:15 p.m. EDT, Sunday, June 28, 2009

President Obama: Well, we wanted to have you guys in because the vote on the energy bill came in on Friday, and although I made a statement, I didn't have a chance to talk to the press about it.

I think this was an extraordinary first step. You know, if you had asked people six months ago -- or six weeks ago, for that matter -- whether we could get a energy bill with the scope of the one that we saw on Friday through the House, people would have told you, no way. You look at the constituent parts of this bill -- not only a framework for cap and trade, but huge significant steps on energy efficiency, a renewable energy standard, huge incentives for research and development in new technologies, incentives for electric cars, incentives for nuclear energy, clean coal technology. This really is an unprecedented step and a comprehensive approach.

And if you tie it together with what we've done earlier, both in the stimulus on R&D and weatherization programs and a whole host of other steps, you take a look at the national fuel efficiency standard that we put into place -- I think it's fair to say that over the first six months we've seen more action on shifting ourselves away from our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels than at any time in several decades.

The other thing I wanted to emphasize is the fact that as we transition into this clean energy economy we are going to see, I think, an enormous amount of economic activity and job production emerging. I know that opponents of this bill kept on suggesting this was a jobs-killer, but everybody I talk to, when we think about how are we going to drive this economy forward post-bubble, keep on pointing to the opportunities for us to transition to a clean energy economy as a driver of economic growth.

Just simple examples: weatherization, you know, we know that our buildings are hugely inefficient. Every time we provide incentives for making our buildings more energy efficient those are jobs for welders, jobs for engineers, jobs for a construction industry that obviously is going to be in a tough way for some time to come, high-skill and relatively low-skill jobs are going to be generated in this process. When you look at our renewable energy standard -- wind, solar -- as a consequence of our Recovery Act you're already seeing thousands of jobs being produced. This bill will build on that and every time we make a wind turbine you're looking at 400 tons of steel, you have the potential for jobs not only in design but also in manufacturing of wind turbines.

So I think that at the end of the day this bill represents an important first step. There are critics from the left as well as the right; some who say who doesn't go far enough, some who say it goes too far. I am convinced that after a long period of inaction, for us to have taken such a significant step means that we're going to be in a position to advance technologically, obtain huge gains in efficiency. I think what we're going to see is that if we're able to get this in place that it's going to be very similar to the Clean Air Act of '91 or how we approached acid rain, where all the nay-sayers are proven wrong because American ingenuity and technology moves a lot faster when incentives are in place.

That's part of the reason why I think you saw a lot of businesses supporting this bill -- everybody from Starbucks to GE, because what business is looking for is clarity and certainty, and what this bill signals is that we're not going to keep on being a prisoner of the past, we're going to reach for the future. The country that is able to lead on clean energy is the country that ultimately is going to be able to compete effectively in the 21st century.

So that's a little preface. I'll just go around the room and Carol and Steve will chime in if and when you guys have some technical questions.

Q: Mr. President, you've, as a candidate and even after you were sworn into office, been an advocate of hundred percent auction of the permits.

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