Obama Announces Clean Fleets Program

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President touts government’s leadership in push for clean energy economy during Friday remarks.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 1, 2011

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Clean Fleet Partnership
Landover, Maryland
April 1, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery—

Hello, everybody. I’m proud to be joined here today by two of our outstanding Cabinet Secretaries, Steven Chu and Ray LaHood. We’re here today for a simple reason: Ray wasn’t home when they tried to deliver a package yesterday. So we’ll just grab it, and be on our way.

Actually, we’re here to announce an exciting new partnership between the federal government and some of America’s leading companies – a partnership that will help reduce our dependence on oil, protect our planet, and spur economic growth.

I gave a speech about this earlier in the week, and laid out a blueprint that will put America on a path toward a clean energy future. I know a lot of folks have been feeling the pinch of higher gas prices lately – whether you’re filling up your tank or running a business like UPS. And usually it’s times like these when everyone starts saying we should do something about our dependence on oil. And when prices go back down, we forget about it, and move on to the next crisis.

But my point is, that can’t be how we conduct our energy policy in this country. We can’t keep going from shock to trance, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall. At a time when we’re witnessing instability overseas, we know this is a national security issue. But we also know that it’s a huge economic issue.

Nearly two years after one of the worst recessions we’ve ever seen, our economy is showing signs of real strength. Today we learned that we added 230,000 private sector jobs last month. That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last thirteen months. And the unemployment rate has now fallen a full point in the last four months. The last time that happened was the recovery of 1984.

Now, despite this good news, we still have plenty of work to do. There are still millions of Americans looking for a job that pays the bills. I know there’s a lot going on in the world, and the news is filled with images of the Middle East and Japan, but you should know that keeping the economy growing and making sure jobs are available is the first thing I think about when I wake up every morning. It’s the last thing I think about when I go to bed each night. And I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a good job can find one; until every family gets a shot at the American Dream. That’s our North Star. That’s what we’re fighting for.

So, we got good news today. But now, we have to keep that momentum going. And making the transition to a clean energy economy will help us do that in two very important ways: first, it reduces the chance that our families, our businesses, and our economy will be held hostage to the whims of the oil market. Second, investments in clean energy have the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new industries right here in the United States.

For all these reasons, I set a new goal for America: When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one third. That is achievable, it’s necessary, and for the sake of our future, we will get it done.

To meet that goal, we’ll need to pursue a broad range of policies, from new incentives for natural gas fleets to new research on advanced biofuels, and I hope members of both parties will support these kinds of proposals. But one of the best ways to reduce our dependence on oil is by making our cars and trucks more energy efficient, because transportation accounts for more than 70 percent of America’s oil consumption. And by the way, using energy efficient cars and trucks also makes economic sense, because transportation is one of the biggest costs for many businesses and families. So, energy-efficient cars and trucks won’t just cut our dependence on oil; they’ll save us money.

If we’re serious about making the transition from gas-guzzlers to hybrids, we need to show automakers that there’s a real market for these vehicles. We need to show them that if they manufacture fuel efficient cars and trucks, people will actually buy them. In other words, we need to put our money where our mouth is.

I’m proud to say this is one place where the government is leading by example. Right now, the government’s fleet includes more than 600,000 vehicles, making it the single largest fleet in America. That means we have considerable purchasing power, and we’re using it to boost clean energy technologies. Already, we’ve doubled the number of federal cars and trucks that are hybrids, and I’m directing our departments and agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015. Not 50 percent, not 75 percent, but 100 percent of our vehicles.

But if we’re going to upgrade all of America’s fleets, our businesses need to step up, as well. That’s what companies like UPS, FedEx, AT&T, Verizon, and PepsiCo are doing. Along with Secretaries Chu and LaHood, I just had a chance to see some of the fuel-efficient cars and trucks they’re adding to their fleets, including hybrid and all-electric vehicles manufactured by Ford and GM. As owners of some of our nation’s largest private fleets, these companies are leading the way when it comes to building clean fleets, and we need to make sure all our businesses are following their example.

That’s why we’re launching a National Clean Fleets Partnership. If you’re a business that needs to transport goods, I’m challenging you to replace your old fleet with a clean energy fleet that’s not only good for your bottom line, but good for our economy, good for our country, and good for our planet. And if you accept this challenge and join our Clean Fleets Partnership, we’ll make a number of tools available – from technical assistance to cutting-edge research and development – that will help you make the transition to a clean energy fleet.

Just to give you a sense of the kind of difference this partnership can make, every single year, millions of commercial vehicles travel America’s roads and highways, burning nearly 4 billion gallons of fuel along the way. With this partnership, we’ll help make sure those vehicles are energy efficient, so we can cut the amount of pollution they pump into the air, cut the amount of gasoline they need to fill a tank, and cut the amount of oil America imports from abroad.

Now, this Clean Fleets Partnership is just part of a broader effort we’ve been making over the past couple of years to promote fuel-efficient vehicles and build a clean energy economy. Last year, after going about thirty years without raising fuel-efficiency standards, we finally put in place a national fuel-efficiency standard for cars and trucks. As a result, our cars will get better gas mileage, ultimately saving an expected 1.8 billion barrels of oil. Our consumers will save money from fewer trips to the pump. Our automakers will build more innovative cars and trucks. And later this year, as we finalize the first-ever fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks, we’ll announce the next round of fuel standards for cars that builds on what we’ve done.

Beyond raising fuel standards for our cars and trucks, we’re also working to build the next generation of vehicles. Soon after I took office, we set a goal to have one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015, which would make the United States the first country in the world to reach that milestone. To help meet that goal, we need a $7,500 tax rebate that’s available directly at the dealership for those who want to buy electric vehicles. And we should launch a new program to reward communities that make it as easy as possible for families and businesses to use electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, we’re also investing in the advanced batteries that can power these electric vehicles; investments that are already making a difference. A couple of years ago, America produced less than two percent of the world’s advanced batteries. But over the next few years, partly because of investments we’re making, we’ll be able to produce forty percent of the world’s advanced batteries. Put simply, we’ve helped jumpstart a big new industry in America.

That’s the kind of partnership between business and government that has always made our economy strong, and I think there’s a lesson in it. It’s not the role of government to be the engine of innovation and prosperity in America. That’s the job of entrepreneurs and companies like the ones who are here today. But government does have the ability to spark innovation; to support the research and scientific discovery that has always led to new breakthroughs and new products. And it’s in our national interest to make these investments.

Obviously, this is more difficult to do in light of the deficit I inherited when I took office. And that’s why I’ve proposed deep cuts in spending so that we can live within our means and focus on investments that are most likely to help grow our economy and create jobs – investments in education, infrastructure, and the clean energy technologies I’ve talked about today.

Right now, there’s a debate about all this going on in Washington as Congress puts together a budget for this year. And after a few weeks of negotiations between Democrats, Republicans, and my team at the White House, there appears to be an agreement between leaders of both parties on how much spending we should cut. Of course, there are still details and differences to work out, and neither side will end up with everything they want.

But we know that both sides are close. We know that a compromise is within reach. And we also know that if these budget negotiations break down, it could shut down the government and jeopardize our economic recovery.

We cannot allow that to happen. Given the encouraging news we received today on jobs, it would be the height of irresponsibility to halt our economic momentum because of the same old Washington politics. The American people don’t want us to retreat to our corners and re-fight the same old battles. It can’t be “my way or the highway” politics. They want their leaders to come together. And right now, I believe we have a real opportunity to do just that, just as we did when we cut taxes for the American people in a bipartisan way a few months ago. It’s time to agree on a budget that makes us live within our means while still investing in our future. That’s how we’ll keep this economy growing. That’s how we’ll put our people back to work. And that’s how we’ll keep the American Dream alive in our time. Thank you.

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