STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State awaited the arrival of President Obama today in a visit in which he planned to propose a package of initiatives designed to promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings that account for roughly a fifth of all of the nation's energy consumption.
On a day aimed at spurring business investment as well as his own political prospects, the president planned to tour several campus laboratories devoted to energy research before delivering an early afternoon speech outlining tax and regulatory changes with a collective goal of achieving a 20 percent reduction in energy use in commercial structures by the year 2020.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, administration officials said the enhanced financial incentives to the private sector would be budget neutral, paid for with cuts in existing tax breaks to energy companies.
They said the details of the cost would be spelled out in the president's pending budget proposal.
Chief among the steps that Mr. Obama was expected to propose is a change in current tax breaks for energy upgrades in commercial buildings. He will call for an existing tax deduction to be replaced by a more generous tax credit. They said the change would spur more businesses to embark on upgrades to make existing structures more efficient. A dividend of such activity, they said, would be increased employment in the so-called green jobs that Mr. Obama has tried to promote throughout his administration.
The administration will also call for changes in Small Business Administration regulations designed to make it easier for smaller firms to invest in energy upgrades. To spur similar investments by cash-strapped state and local governments, the president was also to outline a program of competitive grants to governments that can demonstrate progress in streamlining regulations such as building codes to make it easier for the private sector to pursue the energy agenda.
In a statement, the local congressman, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Centre County, welcomed the president's visit and said he would be there to greet him. But the Republican stressed the need for development of U.S. energy resources in addition to the president's focus on conservation.
"I am hopeful during his visit that Mr. Obama will touch on the importance of domestic energy production, especially oil, coal, and natural gas," Mr. Thompson said in a statement released before the visit.
Rob Gleason, the state Republican Party chairman, had more pointed if jocular greeting.
"In the spirit of Groundhog Day, perhaps Punxsutawney Phil will wake up giving us an early spring and President Obama can finally provide an economic environment that is more friendly to job creators," Mr.
Gleason said in a statement distributed by the GOP. "Pennsylvania can't afford six more weeks of winter or one more day of record high unemployment and President Obama's failing economic agenda."
The president's Penn State appearance was among a series of recent stops showcasing administration concerns and plans on the economy and job creation amid a still-sluggish recovery. In recent weeks, he's made similar business-focused stops in New York and North Carolina as well as the two Super Bowl states of Wisconsin and now, Pennsylvania.