Obama announces $2.3B in ‘clean’ energy manufacturing credits

President Barack Obama announced $2.3 billion in tax credits Friday for projects to manufacture “clean” energy components.

“Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future — jobs that pay well and jobs that can’t be outsourced — but it is also how we will reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil,” Obama said in remarks at the White House.

“This initiative is good for middle-class families, it is good for our security, it is good for our planet,” he said.

The announcement follows a Labor Department report Friday morning showing the economy shed 85,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate remained static at 10 percent.

The tax credits were authorized under the economic stimulus law last year and support a wide range of technologies, such as production of wind turbines, so-called smart meters that help make the power grid more reliable and efficient, and solar power components.

Overall, the tax credits, which cover up to 30 percent of a project’s cost, support 183 projects in 43 states and will leverage more than $5 billion in private capital, according to the White House.

 The companies selected for the projects say the federal incentives will create more than 17,000 jobs and the private capital in the projects will likely support an additional 41,000 jobs, according to the White House.

The tax credit program, jointly run by the Treasury and Energy departments, has received applications seeking a total of $8 billion in funding, far outstripping the $2.3 billion cap in the stimulus law.

The White House is asking Congress to provide an additional $5 billion for the program. Obama called for its inclusion in jobs legislation, which Democrats in both chambers have vowed to move this year to help bring down the unemployment rate. The House jobs bill, which passed last month, doesn't include money for the program, but the Senate has yet to take up its version.

A senior Obama administration official said government programs will help rebuild the economy but shouldn't be expected to produce the bulk of new jobs in the coming recovery.

"At the end of the day, these programs need to catalyze the private sector, which ultimately will be the driver of job creation going forward," the official said.

Administration officials say the tax credit program is aimed at ensuring the U.S. gains ground on Europe and Asia in the market for alternative energy manufacturing.

“The United States, the nation that pioneered the use of clean energy, is being outpaced by nations around the world,” Obama said, noting that, for instance, the manufacturing of batteries to make hybrid vehicles is concentrated in Asia.

The tax credits are being awarded to companies of various sizes, and about a third are small businesses, according to an administration official.

Examples include $27 million worth of credits for a new Dow Corning facility in Michigan to manufacture monosilane, a component of thin-film solar panels; $63 million for Alstom Inc. to manufacture turbines in Tennessee used in nuclear and hydro plants; and several awards to General Electric, including nearly $12 million to re-equip a Kentucky facility to make highly efficient dishwashers.