Obama announces plan to sink $2 billion into solar energy projects

Facing sluggish job growth, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Hearing for Twitter hack suspect Zoom-bombed by porn, rap music Read: Sally Yates testimony MORE on Saturday announced about $2 billion in new investments to help build clean energy technology and create thousands of jobs.

In his weekly address, Obama said that the Department of Energy is slated to award nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments to two solar companies: Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing.


Abengoa Solar has agreed to build “one of the largest solar plants in the world right here in the United States,” Obama said. “After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America.”

The construction will create about 1,600 jobs in Arizona and more than 70 percent of the components and products used in construction will be manufactured in the United States “boosting jobs and communities in states up and down the supply chain,” Obama said. The plant will eventually generate enough energy to power 70,000 homes, Obama added.

Abound Solar Manufacturing will manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants in Colorado and Indiana, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs

The two projects are funded through the Recovery Act. Just on Friday, Obama announced 66 Recovery Act projects aimed at expanding broadband Internet access and public computing centers in underserved communities at a cost of $795 million. These projects are slated to create 5,000 construction and installation jobs in the near term.

The Republicans have strongly criticized the Obama administration and the Recovery Act for not creating enough jobs.

Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying world GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks MORE (R-Ga.) used the GOP’s weekend address to fire off dire warnings of the repercussions of “public debt,” and criticized the Democrats and the White House efforts to use government funds to energize the economy.

“At a time when Americans are clipping coupons and pinching pennies, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress continue to spend money that they – we – do not have,” Chambliss said. “The national debt has risen by $2.4 trillion in the 500 days since President Obama took office. That’s an average of nearly $5 billion per day.”

Chambliss warned that national debt is also a national security issue, because the U.S. debt is held by other nations, and predominantly China.

“Just as with our energy and food supplies, America is vulnerable when we disproportionately rely on other nations,” Chambliss said. “At some point we have to say 'enough is enough.' We have to make tough decisions about spending beyond our means.”

Obama acknowledged in his address that despite the steps the administration is taking, it will take time to replace the millions of jobs lost during the recession.  

“The truth is, steps like these won’t replace all the jobs we’ve lost overnight. I know folks are struggling,” Obama said. “I know this Fourth of July weekend finds many Americans wishing things were a bit easier right now. I do too.”

Obama, however, attacked Senate Republicans for “using their power” to hold “hostage” a bill that would have expanded unemployment benefits. The Senate left for the July Fourth recess without voting on that bill. The House passed the legislation.

Democrats on Friday intensified their criticism of Senate Republicans for holding up the extension of unemployment benefits.

Republicans are “putting our economy at risk” by blocking a $33 billion bill extending the benefits, according to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, who spoke to The Hill after a June report by the Labor Department showed the economy lost 125,000 jobs for the month.

Congress has been trying to reach a deal to extend unemployment benefits for more than two months, but the Senate this week again failed to reach an agreement.

Most Senate Republicans and Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) voted against the legislation because it would add to the nation’s record deficit. They insist the bill’s cost should be offset with other spending cuts.

Ian Swanson contributed to this report