Obama on jobs: 'We have to out-innovate'

By Luke Geiver | September 09, 2011

The President delivered a speech to introduce his American Jobs Act before Congress on Thursday night, a piece of legislation he said will “put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.” U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., responded favorably to the bill, stating that the president set the right tone in his address to Congress.

Of Significance to the biofuels sector was a strong push for infrastructure build-out and revitalization efforts that included a $10 billion dollar “bank” of funding that could be used for transportation and energy infrastructure. Projects receiving funding would have to be at least $100 million in size and be of national or regional significance. The infrastructure bank would also help finance the projects, financing no more than half of the costs of any project.

Matthew Rose, chairman and CEO of BNSF Railway and a member of the president’s council on jobs and competiveness, also commended the bill, citing its push to create long-term jobs by ramping up infrastructure construction throughout the country.

Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE, also a member of the jobs council, said the members of the council supported the bill that Obama repeatedly told Congress throughout his speech we need to “pass this jobs bill.” There is broad support, Immelt said, within the council and business communities “for investing in our nation’s aviation, broadband, surface and energy systems.”

So how did the biofuels and bioenergy sector respond? Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said that the bill is “a significant milestone for the advanced biofuels industry in the United States and clear confirmation that we can be a catalyst for real economic growth for our nation at a critical time,” adding that with the support of the president and Congress, “the United States is now perfectly positioned to successfully develop advanced biofuels on a commercial scale, effectively closing the chapter on fossil fuels with replacement fuels for everything from commercial airliners, to the cars on the road today to the fighter jets and battleships protecting our nation.”

Novozymes issued a statement that called the president’s vision on jobs “bold,” adding that the company looked forward to supporting the president on the jobs bill “and showing how the biofuels industry can continue to lead by example to deliver results for the American economy.”

Anne Steckel, the newly appointed vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, said the NBB was thrilled to hear the president’s support for advanced biofuels. “As the only commercial-scale advanced biofuel that’s produced nationwide today, biodiesel is proof that strong domestic energy policy and incentives can create good paying American jobs,” adding that “even in this economy, our industry is experiencing a boom. We’re on pace to produce more biodiesel than ever before.” According to a recent study, an estimated $345 million in federal tax revenue and $283 million in state and local tax revenues will be generated as a result of biodiesel production in 2011. 

The bill is based on five key components, including tax cuts for small businesses, putting workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America, helping unemployed workers train and gain skills for multiple positions while they remain unemployed, and, paying for all of the plans introduced in the bill to avoid further debt.

“So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process,” Obama said, “but in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?’”

The president pointed out that while some believe we should keep tax loopholes for oil companies in place, or instead use that money to give small business owners a tax break, “we can’t do both.” And to help create jobs in the U.S., he noted, “we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth.” One way of doing that, he explained, is to pass the bill, allowing a faster process for companies to raise capital and go public.

“If we provide the right incentives, the right support—and if we make our trading partners play by the rules,” he said, “we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we will sell all around the world.” We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, he explained, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. “America should be in a race to the top.”

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