• Reuters


President Barack Obama on Friday announced steps to increase the use of solar panels, boost energy efficiency in federal buildings and train more people to work in the field of renewable energy.

“It’s the right thing to do for the planet,” Obama said, standing in a Wal-Mart store’s outdoor lighting section, which featured rooftop solar panels and a charging station for electric vehicles, among other energy-saving retrofits.

The president used the stop to show how major corporations have committed to increasing the generation of solar power at their facilities.

Wal-Mart Stores, Apple, Yahoo, Google and Ikea are among the companies that have made such commitments.

Obama made the announcement at the end of a three-day California swing that was mostly devoted to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Democratic Party.

The president and administration officials spent much of the week highlighting their concern about climate change and the need to take steps to address it. Friday’s announcement fit into that policy agenda.

“The sooner we work together to adapt the economy to this reality of climate change, the more likely it is that we do right by our kids and leave a more stable world,” Obama said at what Bill Simon, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores U.S., said was the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to one of his stores.

Obama said an additional $2 billion will be devoted to upgrades in energy efficiency at federal government buildings over the next three years.

Several financial institutions, including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs Group, are announcing new plans for “large-scale investment and innovative programs” to develop solar and other renewable energy installations, the White House said.

Obama’s executive actions would support efforts at community colleges so that 50,000 workers can join the solar industry by 2020, it said.

“Investing in solar and efficiency makes sense to reduce our carbon emissions, but also for our pocketbooks and for our economy,” said Dan Utech, an energy adviser to Obama, during a conference call Thursday to preview Obama’s announcement.

He said the U.S. solar energy industry has expanded dramatically under Obama’s watch, with installations increasing to an amount enough to power more than 2 million homes.

An Obama spokesman also announced the completion of a project to install solar panels at the White House itself. The panels were American-made and part of an energy retrofit that will improve the building’s energy efficiency.

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