We Can Solve America's Sustainability Challenges Together: President Obama's Remarks To Business Roundtable


On March 12, President Obama spoke with Business Roundtable's members - dozens of chief executives of America's top companies — at their quarterly meeting in Washington. The President outlined his administration's top priorities for the coming year, touching on the budget, regulatory reform, international tax fairness, workforce training and other issues. President Obama highlighted a number of areas of common ground between CEOs and the administration, including energy and sustainability:

"We all know that the country that harnesses the power of renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it's China that's launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids will roll off our assembly lines, but they're running on battery cells made in Korea.

I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders — and I know you don't either. It's time for America to lead."

We agree with the President. Renewable energy is an important resource, and one that America needs to be out in front on. We are the most entrepreneurial and innovative society in the world — there's no reason why we shouldn't be leading instead of following on the green technology of the 21st century. That's why we stand firmly for increased focus and commitment to green technology and renewable and alternative fuel sources. Paired with increased efficiency measures, enhanced access to domestic energy supplies and smart, growth-oriented sustainability policies, we have the potential to expand our economy and create new jobs in the emerging green sector.

In fact, green jobs were another key point for the President:

"The best way to ensure that we're not seeing protectionist tendencies in this country is to make sure that workers are benefiting from trade. And some sectors are, but some sectors may not be — if we are retraining them, if we're investing in their futures, if, when there are new opportunities in green energy companies are saying, you know what, let's go to Michigan, or let's go to Ohio where you've seen a huge exodus of jobs — let's go in there and work on developing the new battery, or the new solar panel, or the new technology that is going to help launch new industries. That is going to be something that I think benefits everybody and benefits your businesses most of all."

Education and workforce training have long been among our top policy priorities, and the green jobs concept fits in perfectly with that effort. With today's high unemployment rates, the time is now to support the development of the green workforce promoted by both the President and his erstwhile rival during the campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) The investments we make in this area — including lifelong learning programs and appropriate training so workers can enter these fields — can help alleviate the pain that so many American workers are feeling in this down economy. It can bolster our struggling private sector in a time when we have never needed that more. The President put it best when he noted that it's in the "interest of both your companies and your country to have a workforce that's highly educated, healthy, and prosperous." Importantly, these green jobs will also move us on the road to increased sustainability and a more diverse, green-oriented economy.

We believe that the energy and sustainability challenges facing our nation — and the world — must be confronted with forward-looking policies and cooperation between government and the private sector. As long as these challenges remain unsolved, our economy will never reach its full potential.

That's why we believe the President's address was so constructive. He offered his hand of partnership to America's leading CEOs, and our members responded enthusiastically. The themes from Obama's presidential campaign — hope, change and a nonpartisan approach to solving our nation's toughest challenges — ring true in his efforts to advance energy and environment priorities. We believe in strategic partnership and know that, alone, neither business nor government can solve our energy and environment challenges. It's all about working together for a stronger economy, green jobs for America's workers, new and innovative fuel technologies, and a greener, brighter tomorrow.

To view the speech as carried on Bloomberg Television, please click here.

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