United States

United States

A high profile policy pledge -- Obama's bolt day

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President Barack Obama, on the way to his inauguration last month, took a detour to stop by a bolt factory in Ohio to demonstrate his support for renewable energy. Instead of a more photogenic drivetrain assembly or blade manufacturing facility, Obama's transition team chose a low-tech setting outside Cleveland, Ohio, where bolts for wind turbines are made by Cardinal Fastener.

The simplicity and American pedigree of the facility is partly what Obama's team and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) wanted from the event, says Cardinal's Dan Alvarez. The company, which has been in business for over 25 years, entered the wind industry only two years ago. Today, over half its income comes from the wind business and Cardinal is the largest manufacturer of American-made large-scale threaded fasteners used to bolt wind turbine towers together and to fasten blades to rotors.

"We were chosen because of our lean manufacturing process and because we've embraced change for the wind power industry, and this is one of the things President Obama also wants to do," says Alvarez, who adds that he never expected his small company to be thrust into such a bright spotlight.

Speaking at the facility after a tour, Obama said that "there are Cardinal bolts in both the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge, so in some ways I can't think of a more iconic American company."

Obama went on to stress that "renewable energy isn't something that's pie in the sky, it's not a far off future, it's happening all across the US right now." But he echoed AWEA warnings that as much as half of the wind project installations destined for construction this year could be stalled because of difficult economic conditions for wind power.

He blamed government polices that have failed to provide the long term incentives needed to support an industry. "Think about what's happening in countries like Spain and Germany and Japan. They're making real investments in renewables and they are surging ahead of us. They are poised to take the lead in this new industry," said Obama. "This isn't because they are smarter than us, or work harder than us, or are more innovative than we are. It's because their governments have harnessed their peoples' hard work and ingenuity with bold investments, investments that have paid off with good, high wage jobs that they won't lose to other countries. There is no reason we can't do the same thing right here in America," he said.

Towards that end, Obama says his administration is committed to doubling clean energy in the US in three years, although details for getting there have not been ironed out. Ultimately, Congress shapes specific policies. It is currently debating what energy policies to include in an economic stimulus package that could be passed by early this month.

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