Offshore drilling, cap and trade, and tax incentives for green businesses were highlights of Sen. Barack Obama’s New Energy For America plan, which he unveiled today in Lansing.
More than a thousand spectators gathered inside the Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing, to hear the Democratic presidential candidate speak about Michigan’s role in driving his plan to overhaul the nation’s economic and environmental policies.
“These efforts will lead to an explosion of innovation here in Michigan,” he said. “You will have a partner in the White House to make sure that innovation thrives.”
Obama said Michigan’s existing manufacturing infrastructure and skilled workforce make the state an optimal setting to foster more green industry. He said he hopes to revitalize the nation’s auto manufacturing by offering $4 billion in aid to U.S. auto companies to re-equip factories for hybrid vehicle production.
“This is a great goal … finally protecting the earth in a way which creates jobs simultaneously,” said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
By 2015, Obama hopes to have a million U.S.-made hybrid vehicles on the nation’s roads.
Obama said he plans to offer tax incentives up to $7,000 to individuals who purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Obama’s plan will be imperative in helping the struggling auto industry in Michigan to get back on its feet.
“The auto makers, which are the biggest providers of jobs, need a partner in the White House,” she said. “That’s exactly what Senator Obama has proposed.”
In addition to restructuring the auto industry, Obama said he plans to implement strong cap-and-trade policies to make energy companies pay for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit. He also endorsed some offshore drilling and tapping into the nation’s oil reserves as a temporary solution to rising fuel prices, but called it a “drawback” to his overall plan.
“I’m not interested in making the perfect the enemy of the good,” he said.
Obama claims the push for alternative energy will lead to 5 million new jobs across the nation. George Wiewiora, an employee of Michigan’s AFL-CIO, said that alone is enough to catch his interest.
“It’s unconscionable that our government allows the jobs to go away to other countries the way they do, when we have the power and resources to keep them here,” he said. “Barack Obama’s got a plan to do that.”
During a conference call following Obama’s visit, Republican party representatives criticized the plan, saying it would ultimately lead extra costs for the middle class.
“It is a tax and punish approach to try to get us to a better place in America,” said Mike Rodgers.
McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer called the plan a hodge podge of ideas and accused Obama of copying ideas McCain highlighted in his Lexington Project energy plan, which McCain unveiled in late June.
“We predicted he would support drilling,” As soon as something becomes politically expedient, that’s what he does,” Pfotenhauer said.
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