Obama calls for making buildings more efficient

President Obama laid out a broad plan Thursday for making the country’s commercial buildings more energy efficient, arguing that the effort will save businesses money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.

In remarks at Pennsylvania State University, Obama set a goal of making commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. Making buildings more efficient is “one of the fastest, easiest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America,” he said.

Homes and commercial buildings produce significant greenhouse gas emissions and result in high utility bills, Obama said. If the country can reach his goal, U.S. businesses can save as much as $40 billion a year on their energy bills, he said.

The energy efficiency plan is part of the Obama administration’s “win the future” initiative, first outlined in the president’s State of the Union address last week. In the address, Obama also called on Congress to pass legislation requiring that 80 percent of the country’s electricity come from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas.

Obama outlined a multi-pronged plan for reaching the goal. Under the plan, the Small Business Administration will work to encourage lenders to give more financing for commercial retrofits. In addition, the administration will call on Congress to provide grants for local and state governments that streamline building codes and regulations as well as provide new tax credits for energy efficient buildings.

The president called on corporate executives and heads of major universities to retrofit their buildings to save energy. He also announced that he is using existing authorities to establish a program to train workers to retrofit buildings.

To offset the cost of the energy efficiency proposal, Obama called on Congress to eliminate oil industry tax breaks, comments that were met with loud applause by the crowd at Penn State.

“They are doing just fine on their own,” Obama said, echoing language he used in his State of the Union address last week. “So it’s time to stop subsidizing yesterday’s energy. It’s time to invest in tomorrow’s.”

But the proposal to cut oil industry tax breaks faces significant opposition from Republicans in Congress.

As The Hill reported Thursday morning, administration officials have not revealed how much the energy efficiency proposal will cost, saying the president will detail the cost of the plan in his upcoming budget request.