President Barack Obama last night outlined a $447 billion economic package designed to spur growth by offering tax breaks to businesses, cutting payroll taxes, spending on infrastructure and extending unemployment benefits.
He spoke before Congress for about 30 minutes and extolled its members to “pass this jobs plan right away,” saying it would provide a jolt to the economy by giving small businesses incentive to hire the long-term unemployed and help workers put more money in their pockets by extending the current payroll tax cut.
What went missing during the speech was any mention of green building initiatives, green jobs or clean energy. Instead, the president focused on bi-partisan economic measures that would be more likely to pass in Congress.
Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, spoke with Mother Nature Network on Friday and said that despite the lack of specific reference in his speech, the president remains an advocate of clean energy and green building. But, she noted, he’s “focused on things that can be done quickly.”
She went on to say that “the president has since the beginning advocated for an aggressive clean energy agenda. If the United States leads the clean energy economy, we’ll be the country that leads the 21st century global economy.”
She also noted that the incentives mentioned in the president’s speech would apply to a broad spectrum of small businesses, including those working in the green technology and clean energy sectors.
“And that builds on top of the clean energy investments in the  Recovery Act,” she said.
At one point, the president asked rhetorically, “Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies?” Sutley said the administration had been working on closing them for some time. “We continue to think it’s a good idea for our economy and a good idea for our planet,” she said.
The speech came about a week after the president rejected a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have reduced emissions of smog-causing chemicals. When asked about the rejection of the EPA rule, Sutley said “we need to be smart and sensible” about implementing environmental regulation during tough economic times. But, she also reiterated what the president said in his speech about how America “shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom” when it comes to pollution standards.
While several of Obama’s decisions in recent weeks have disappointed many environmental groups — and even led to protests outside the White House — Sutley dismissed the idea that the president might be taking environmentally-minded voters for granted in the 2012 election.
“We have a strong environmental record,” she said. “In terms of Americans who care about the environment what I would say to them is to look at the record. It’s very strong.”