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President Obama used a resurrected former Maytag plant now producing wind-energy towers to announce Wednesday the leasing of federal waters for projects to generate electricity from wind as well as from ocean currents and other renewable sources. In his first trip to Iowa as President, Obama commemorated Earth Day at Trinity Structural Towers in Newton, where just after noon (above), he delivered a major energy policy speech before about 200 people, including plant workers, elected officials and others. The major news item in the speech: the opening of federal waters for offshore wind-energy development.

“This will open the door to major investments in offshore clean energy,” Obama said. “For example, there is enormous interest in wind projects off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware and today’s announcement will enable these projects to move forward.” According to Obama, it is estimated that if the United States fully pursues its potential for wind energy on land and offshore, wind can generate as much as 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030, creating as many as 250,000 jobs in the process.

Iowa is second only to Texas in installed wind capacity, which more than doubled last year alone. In 2000, energy technology represented just one half of one percent of all venture capital investments nationally. Today, it’s more than 10 percent, the president noted. “It wasn’t too long ago that Maytag closed its operations in Newton,” Obama said. “Hundreds of jobs were lost.  To have walked these floors then would have been to walk along empty corridors. The only signs of a once-thriving enterprise would have been the markings on cement in the shape of equipment that was boxed up and carted away.” When completed, the wind towers, which were resting behind Obama as he spoke, will hold aloft blades that can generate as much as 2.5 megawatts of electricity. 

Douglas Burns

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