December 2nd, 2011
12:16 PM ET
(CNN) – President Obama announced Friday the federal government and private sector partners will invest $4 billion over the next two years in energy upgrades to buildings across the country, an initiative the White House says will create several thousand new construction jobs.
The president made the announcement on the top floor of a building currently under renovation and only steps from the White House with former President Bill Clinton at his side. The collaboration is part of the White House’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign – a series of executive orders Obama has issued over the last two months without congressional involvement.
"Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest and cheapest ways for us to create jobs, save money, and cut down on harmful pollution. It is a trifecta,” the president said. “It could save our businesses up to $40 billion a year on our energy bills."
Obama also called on Congress to provide added incentives to private sector businesses that agree to undergo energy upgrades.
Half of the $4 billion commitment is the result of a presidential memorandum to upgrade federal buildings nationwide. The White House says the up-front costs will be completely defrayed by the long-term savings that the more energy-efficient upgrades will produce.
The other $2 billion investment pledge comes from a partnership of 60 mayors, university presidents, business CEOs, and labor leaders. The goal is to achieve a 20 percent upgrade in energy performance by the year 2020 in 1.6 billion square feet of office space.
“Over the past decades we’ve seen what happens if we don’t make investments like these - wages flat line, incomes fall, and employment stall. But we’ve also seen what happens if we do what’s right,” Obama also said.
The new partnership builds on one already forged by the Clinton Global Initiative, which has secured commitments from 14 private sector partners to make a $500 million investment in energy upgrades.
The announcement won quick plaudits from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that often spars with the Obama administration over economic policy.
In a statement, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donahue, who was also at the event, said the new initiative has “tremendous potential.”
“It is a surefire way to create jobs and make our nation’s federal buildings more energy-efficient, all without using a penny of taxpayer money,” he said.