Obama Visits Utah to Tout Solar Energy as Good for Jobs, Climate

President Barack Obama said the U.S. economy is being buffeted by slowdowns overseas and made a pitch for his proposals on infrastructure, education and energy as the remedy to sustain growth.

Appearing before an array of solar panels at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Obama said his administration is setting a goal of training 75,000 workers for the solar industry by 2020, with a special emphasis on military veterans.

“We have had the strongest economy but we’re impacted by what happens around the world,” Obama said just hours after a Labor Department report showed U.S. payrolls increased by 126,000 in March, the smallest monthly gain since December 2013.

U.S. economic security, he said, can be assured by rebuilding and repairing the nation’s transportation system and by spurring the growth of alternative energy sources. The solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, he said.

The initiative on solar energy is the latest in a series of unilateral actions Obama has taken to advance his clean energy agenda. On Tuesday, Obama submitted to the United Nations a plan to slash greenhouse gases by more than a quarter over the next decade.

Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures have fought to block several of Obama’s climate initiatives, saying they cost jobs by requiring cuts to carbon dioxide from coal- fired power plants.

Congressional Resistance

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Obama’s United Nations plan “job killing and likely illegal,” in a statement on Tuesday. He warned other nations against accepting the plan since it had not been approved by Congress.

Obama’s trip to Utah is his latest stop in a tour across mostly Republican states to tout initiatives backed almost exclusively by Democrats.

In the last month, he has traveled to Alabama to call for more regulations on payday lenders, pitched free community college in South Carolina and called for student loan relief in Georgia.

Yesterday in Louisville, Kentucky, Obama said Republicans were cutting funding for job training while proposing to eliminate the estate tax for wealthy Americans.

The solar initiative announced today includes a plan to make funding from the G.I. Bill available for veterans pursuing solar workforce training. A new “Solar Ready Vets” program will provide installation training for veterans at 10 military bases in the U.S., the White House said in a statement Friday.

Obama’s trip to Utah is his first as president. He has now visited every state except for South Dakota. In the 2012 election, Utah delivered Obama his worst loss, as the president garnered less than 25 percent of the vote against Mitt Romney.

Obama met with leaders of the Mormon church Thursday night, discussing issues including disaster relief and immigration.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg

Lead image: Solar panels. Credit: Shutterstock.

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