MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (AP) — President Barack Obama announced new steps Friday by companies, local governments and his own administration to deploy solar technology, showcasing steps to combat climate change that don't require consent from a disinclined Congress.
Obama said more than 300 companies and state and local governments have pledged to use solar energy. It's a good move for the country, he said, adding that solar energy is cheaper and easier to use than ever before.
"The commitments we're announcing today prove that there are cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and create jobs at the same time," Obama said at a sprawling Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California, where Obama was wrapping up a three-day swing through the state.
Tweaking opponents of his energy policies in Congress, Obama lamented that lawmakers have "not always been as visionary on these issues as we would like." That's why he's seizing opportunities this year to act unilaterally to advance those goals, Obama said.
"Unfortunately, inside of Washington, we still have some climate deniers who shout loud," Obama said. "But they're wasting people's time on a settled debate."
Ticking through a list of economic and environmental benefits he attributed to solar technology, Obama cast the commitments as part of a broader campaign to reduce American energy dependence, create jobs in renewable energy and lower heat-trapping emissions blamed for global warming.
Obama also announced executive actions aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. The White House said the solar effort will power the equivalent of 130,000 homes and the administrative actions could reduce carbon pollution in an amount equal to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.
The White House said it chose Wal-Mart for the event because the company has committed to doubling the number of solar energy projects at its stores, Sam's Clubs and distribution centers. But in choosing the giant retailer as the backdrop for his announcement, Obama triggered a backlash from labor unions and pay equity advocates who say low wages paid by Wal-Mart fly in the face of Obama's vaunted push on pay equity.
"What numbskull in the White House arranged this?" former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Bill Clinton administration, said on Facebook.