MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Calling it the right thing to do for America’s bottom line, President Barack Obama announced new steps Friday by companies, local governments and his administration to deploy solar technology, showcasing steps to combat climate change that don’t require consent from Congress.
Framed by rows of clothing and patio supplies at a Walmart in California, Obama said more than 300 companies and state and local governments have pledged to use solar energy.
“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 the sprawling store in Mountain View, where Obama was wrapping up a three-day swing through California.
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.
“This is what you call a win-win-win,” Obama said.
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 Walmart 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 Walmart 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, asked on Facebook.
“While he’s in California, I would hope President Obama would speak directly to Walmart employees and hear from them about their daily struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table,” said Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
Walmart says it pays wages that are competitive in the retail industry.
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