Coral Gables (February 23, 2012) —
With another spike in gasoline prices now causing consumers to pay more at the pump, President Barack Obama visited the University of Miami on Thursday to tout his energy policies, stopping first at UM’s College of Engineering, where he toured a government-supported center that helps local companies become more energy efficient.
“What this facility does is teach these outstanding young engineers to do energy assessments,” said Obama, as engineering graduate student Jason Grant led him on a tour of the college’s Industrial Assessment Center.
The president, sans jacket and with the sleeves of his white dress shirt rolled up, noted that the assessments save about 25 percent in energy costs. “It’s a great example of how people are being trained right now to make our businesses more efficient all across the country.”
Obama delivered his message of sound energy practices at his next stop on the UM campus, the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse, where, before more than 1,400 attendees—many of them students—he laid out his administration’s plan for a more energy-efficient nation that’s less dependent on foreign oil.
An increase in oil drilling, he said, is not the answer.
At UM's College of Engineering, President Obama toured the Industrial Assessment Center, where engineering graduate student Jason Grant explained the government-supported initiative's mission and projects.
“If we’re going to take control of our energy future, if we’re going to avoid these gas price spikes down the line, then we need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy—oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more,” Obama said. “We need to keep developing the technology that allows us to use less oil in our cars and trucks, in our buildings and plants. That’s the strategy we’re pursuing, and that’s the only real solution to this challenge.”
While safe, responsible oil production should continue, new technologies and sources of energy are needed so that the nation isn’t “held hostage by the ups and downs of the world oil market.”
“The United States consumes more than a fifth of the world’s oil—more than 20 percent of the world's oil—just us,” Obama said. “We only have 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. We consume 20; we’ve got 2. And that means we can’t just rely on fossil fuels from the last century...We’ve got to rely on American know-how and young engineers right here at the U who are focused on energy.”
Obama said examples of sustained energy initiatives abound in South Florida, noting that in 2008 Miami became the first major U.S. city to power its city hall entirely with solar and renewable energy and crediting UM for helping “manufacturers save millions of dollars in energy bills by making their facilities more efficient.”
Erica Christine Hord, a biomedical engineering student, introduced President Obama at the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse.
Obama visited a University of Miami that has implemented several “green” initiatives, from a program offering affordable bikes for students to a 50 percent campus-parking rebate for employees who drive hybrid vehicles. And several UM buildings—including the Fieldhouse in which he spoke—have obtained various levels of LEED certifications.
He touted his administration’s successes, noting that two years ago the nation’s dependence on foreign oil was under 50 percent and that in 2011 the use of clean, renewable energy nearly doubled.
“We’re taking every possible action to develop, safely, a near hundred-year supply of natural gas in this country—something that experts believe will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade,” said Obama, also mentioning his administration’s support of the first new nuclear power plant in three decades.
He called on Congress to renew clean energy tax credits, saying they would lead to more jobs and less dependence on foreign oil.
He said his administration is taking steps to make it easier for companies to save money by investing in “energy solutions that have been proven here in the University of Miami—new lighting systems, advanced heating and cooling systems that can lower a company’s energy bills and make them more competitive.”
During his speech at the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse, President Obama made the popular U sign, receiving thunderous applause from students.
For UM students like Annalyssa Laney, seeing President Obama was an opportunity she “didn’t want to pass up.” An 18-year-old freshman psychology major from Hollywood, Laney got in line at 9 p.m. on Tuesday to make sure she got one of the hundreds of tickets that were distributed to students on Wednesday morning.
“There were already a hundred people in line ahead of me,” she said. Laney brought a chair and comforter from her dorm room, but admits she got little sleep, studying for a sociology test and munching on Skittles and potato chips to pass the time.
Sophomore Genesis Lugo said she slept in a sleeping bag, Tweeting and posting photos of her overnight campus camp-out on Facebook. “But the wait was well worth it,” said Lugo.
Haitian-born Phalande Jean and her friend Shanda Jean Baptiste didn’t have to wait in line at all to get their tickets. Jean said that they received an email from UM's entrepreneurial resource center, The Launch Pad, informing them that it had 30 extra tickets it would distribute to students on a first-come, first-served basis.
UM President Donna E. Shalala, who introduced Obama, said the commander in chief’s visit “says a lot about how extraordinary the opportunities are at the University of Miami. And the nice thing is, our students know it.”
View the above slideshow of President Obama's visit.
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