SAN JOSE, Calif. — President Barack Obama is announcing pledges by more than 300 companies and state and local governments to use solar technology.
Obama says that’s a good move for the country because solar energy is cheaper and easier to use than ever before. He also says it will save money the companies can use to create jobs and grow their businesses.
Obama is making the announcement at a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, Calif., because the retailer has promised to double the number of solar energy projects at its stores and distribution center.
But the choice of Wal-Mart has triggered a backlash from labor unions and pay equity advocates who say the retailer pays low wages. Obama says the pledges show there are cost-effective ways to battle climate change and create jobs.
Obama was also announcing executive actions aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. The White House says the solar effort will power the equivalent of 130,000 homes and the administrative actions could reduce carbon pollution in an amount equal to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.
“While he’s in California, I would hope President Obama would speak directly to Wal-Mart employees and hear from them about their daily struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table,” said Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
Wal-Mart says it pays wages that are competitive in the retail industry.
The clashing energy vs. jobs message is not new to the White House. Labor unions, for example, have pressed the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. because it would create jobs. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline, and the administration recently put off a decision on whether to approve it, likely until after the November congressional elections.
Obama was wrapping up a three-day trip mostly devoted to raising money for the Democratic Party.
Complicating things for the White House, Obama on Thursday attended a fundraiser hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who sits on Wal-Mart’s board of directors.