President Barack Obama is enlisting former President Bill Clinton and companies including 3M Co. and Alcoa Inc. in a $4 billion initiative to cut energy costs in buildings and encourage hiring for construction jobs.
The program combines $2 billion in energy-efficiency upgrades for federal buildings and commitments from companies, cities and universities to put $2 billion into similar efforts. The improvements to government buildings will be made under an existing federal program that uses private financing, according to the administration.
“Upgrading the energy efficiency of America’s buildings is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution, and create good jobs right now,” Obama will say in remarks today in Washington, according to excerpts released by the White House.
Obama is expanding the “Better Building Initiative” he announced in February and joining it with a White House effort to spark hiring that was begun after the president’s $447 billion jobs plan stalled in Congress.
His announcement is being made on the same day the Labor Department announced that the U.S. jobless rate declined to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009. Payrolls climbed 120,000, with more than half the hiring coming from retailers and temporary help agencies, following a revised 100,000 rise in October. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey called for a gain of 125,000.
Obama is set to appear later today with Clinton and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue to promote the initiative, along with representatives from participating companies and organizations. In addition to St. Paul, Minnesota- based 3M and Alcoa, the New York-based aluminum producer, companies taking part in the initiative include Briggs & Stratton Corp., Schneider Electric SA, ProLogis Inc., Nissan North America and Walgreen Co., the White House said.
The city of Denver, the Houston Independent School District, Delaware State University and the state of Iowa’s Department of Administrative Services are among the participating government entities.
The goal is to improve energy efficiency by a minimum of 20 percent by 2020 in 1.6 billion square feet of commercial building space, according to an administration release.
“This is a sure fire way to create jobs and make our nation’s federal buildings more energy efficient, all without using a penny of taxpayer money,” Donohue said in a statement.
Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, said the plan is expected to generate “tens of thousands of jobs” as properties are upgraded.
Clinton has been working on the Better Building Initiative through his foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Money to improve federal buildings will come from private- sector financing, which will be paid off from the savings from budgeted costs by agencies, Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a briefing.
“One of these energy service companies takes the risk here,” Zients said. “Once they are paid back, the federal government enjoys the savings on an ongoing basis.”
Similar contracts already have been successfully used to improve energy efficiency at government facilities, he said.
--With assistance from Andrew Herndon in San Francisco. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Don Frederick
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