President Barack Obama spoke about energy efficiency at Mountain View's Walmart Friday morning, saying that if solar panels are good enough for cost-conscious Walmart, they are good enough for wide-spread use in the United States.
"Hello, Mountain View!" Obama said to the crowd of Walmart employees, media and government officials as he took the podium at inside the store, where aisles had been cleared for the event. He made some humorous remarks about being careful to not forget Mother's Day.
Obama said he decided to visit Mountain View's store because it is unique. "A few years ago, you decided to put solar panels on the roof of the store, you replaced some traditional light bulbs with LEDs, you made refrigerant cases more more efficient, and you even put in charging stations for electric vehicles. And all told those upgrades created dozens of construction jobs and helped this store save money on its energy," the president said. "That's why I'm here today. Because more and more companies like Walmart are realizing that wasting less energy isn't just good for the planet, it's good for business. It's good for the bottom line. And it means jobs."
With protesters gathered outside to call attention to complaints about Walmart's anti-union policies and low wages, Obama noted, "Walmart is pretty good at counting its pennies" while making the case that Walmart's adoption of solar is a sign of the times. Walmart's CEO had announced earlier in the morning the company will save $1 billion a year on energy costs by 2020 by adding 7 billion kWh of solar to its 850 million square feet of buildings in the U.S., a space equal to half the city of San Francisco, Obama noted.
Obama said Walmart isn't the only company taking such steps.
"Last month I called up leaders from a whole range of industries and today more than 300 organizations, home builders, affordable housing builders, companies like Home Depot and Apple, announced that they are going to expand in the use of solar energy, thereby creating more jobs and cutting carbon pollution," Obama said.
Banks like Connecticut's Green Bank and Goldman Sachs are "ready to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy," he said.
Obama also announced that he is making sure the federal government does its part though energy upgrades to federal facilities. "Today I'm ordering an additional $2 billion dollars in upgrades over the next three years -- these upgrades will create tens of thousands of construction jobs and save taxpayers billions of dollars," Obama said.
Obama made the case that green jobs are now key to the American economy. He noted how Americans wanted a chance to create "an economy that works, not just for a few at the top, but for everybody. The idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, what your last name is, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, you can make it here in America. And that starts with helping businesses create more jobs," he said.
"The biggest factor in bringing jobs back to America has been our commitment to American energy over the last five years," Obama said, later adding that the energy sector "is probably going to have more to do with how our economy succeeds than just about any other."
The president said jobs in the solar panel industry went up 20 percent last year while solar panel prices have dropped 60 percent over the past few years.
"Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar," Obama said. "And every panel is pounded into place by a worker whose job cannot be shipped overseas."
"Climate change is real and we have to act now," said the president. "In Washington, we've got some climate deniers who shout loud, but they are wasting time (arguing) a settled debate."
"Earlier this week we issued a report," Obama said. "It was years in the making, called the 'National Climate Assessment.' Hundreds of scientists, experts, businesses, not-for-profits, local communities all contributed over the course of four years. What they all found, unequivocally, is that climate change is not some far off problem in the future, it's happening now, it's causing hardship now, it's affecting every sector of our economy and our society. More severe floods, more violent wildfires. It's already costing cities and states and families and businesses money. Here in California, you know what's happening, and increasingly more Americans do."
Following his remarks at the store, the president was scheduled to depart from Moffett Field and return to Washington, D.C. He attended two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee on Thursday evening and spent the night in San Jose.