Obama Administration Says Energy Reform Not Negotiable

March 24, 2009

By Philip Elliott  from AP

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s aides say the administration will work with Congress on his budget proposal, but energy independence is not subject to wheeling and dealing.

Obama planned to make the case Monday for a budget proposal that invests billions in research designed to reduce climate change and guarantees loans for companies that develop clean energy technologies. Obama has tied his first budget proposal as president to a renewable energy program to help the United States move toward energy independence.

In a fact sheet released Monday, the White House said Obama’s meeting with “clean energy entrepreneurs and leaders of the research community” will outline an energy program that draws on the administration’s $787 billion stimulus package for $39 billion at the Department of Energy and $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy.

It also disclosed that his 10-year budget proposal contains spending of nearly $75 billion to make permanent existing tax cuts for energy research and experimentation.

“The president is prepared to negotiate on this budget with folks like those at this table … and the president’s been very clear about this, as has our budget director: We don’t expect these folks to sign on the dotted line,” said Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s economics adviser.

“What we do expect and what we are going to stand very firm on _ because this president, this vice president have made this clear _ that there are these priorities that brought them to the dance here: energy reform, health care reform, education, all done in the context of a budget that cuts the deficit in half over our first term.”

Obama and his aides plan an aggressive push to deliver a $3.6 trillion budget that contains many of his campaign promises. He plans to speak about the energy portion of his budget at the White House on Monday, highlighting research and development in clean energy. He also will highlight how part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package already is working to create much-needed jobs.

Obama plans to follow that with a prime-time news conference on Tuesday. The president is back in campaign mode as he stumps for a budget proposal that, so far, has faced opposition from members of both parties.

Democrats worry the plan inflates deficit spending; the Congressional Budget Office estimates Obama’s budget would generate $9.3 trillion in red ink over the next decade. Republicans say it would impose massive tax increases, including on polluters; Washington could raise billions from companies that use unclean fuels, what GOP leaders called a carbon tax.

Obama said the country must provide incentives for so-called green businesses.

“I realize there are those who say these plans are too ambitious to enact,” Obama said in his weekly video and Internet message. “To that I say that the challenges we face are too large to ignore. I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next president or the next generation. I came here to solve them.”

Bernstein spoke Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

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