Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Oskaloosa, IA, 8/14/2012
Aboard Press Bus
En Route Oskaloosa, Iowa
10:52 A.M. CDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Press Force One here, the press vehicle as part of the President’s motorcade, as we make our way through Iowa on this glorious day -- day two of our trip.
As you know, the President is going to talk about the importance today of renewable wind energy to our economy. And as a matter of policy, I think you know that the President has made clear that clean, renewable wind energy is a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that aims to develop more secure domestic energy sources while strengthening American manufacturing and supporting American jobs.
The Obama administration has made the largest investment in clean energy in history, and the United States has doubled renewable energy since 2008. Today, the Department of Energy released -- will release a report that underscores the dramatic expansion of wind energy and the U.S. manufacturing that is supporting this surge.
In 2011, the United States was one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing wind markets in the world, with wind power representing 32 percent of all new electric capacity added in the United States last year, second only --
Q I’m sorry, what was that?
MR. CARNEY: Thirty-two percent of all new electric capacity added in the United States last year, second only to natural gas. As a result, $14 billion was invested in the United States, diversifying our energy economy, expanding American manufacturing, and supporting American jobs.
Industry numbers show that this industry now supports 75,000 jobs across the country, including thousands of jobs here in Iowa. Not only did wind energy surge in 2011, the percent of wind equipment made in the United States has expanded dramatically. I think that some of you have seen, along the highways here in Iowa, trucks carrying large wind turbine blades.
MS. PSAKI: There was a wind turbine at the State Fair last night.
MR. CARNEY: Or the wind turbine at the State Fair -- just all across the landscape here.
Nearly 70 percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year -- including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators -- was made here in the United States, up from just 35 percent in 2005.
At the end of 2011, the states with the most installed wind capacity included Texas, Iowa, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, Colorado, and North Dakota. These states account for almost 75 percent of U.S. wind capacity, or more than 34 gigawatts -- that’s a lot of gigawatts.
Despite the recent growth in wind installations and manufacturing, the DOE 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, which is an annual report, finds that 2013 may see a dramatic slowing of domestic wind energy deployment due in part -- let me just repeat that -- may see a dramatic slowing of domestic wind energy deployment due in part to the possible expiration of federal renewable energy tax incentives.
The production tax credit, also known as the wind energy tax credit, which provides an important credit to wind producers in the United States, has helped drive the industry’s growth and it is set to expire at the end of the year. The wind industry projects that 37,000 jobs could be lost if the production tax credit is allowed to expire.
As you know, support for this tax credit is bipartisan. Senators and governors of both parties, Republicans in states like Iowa, support the extension of this tax credit. Unfortunately, thus far, the obstacles have been Republicans in Washington, especially in the House of Representatives.
MS. PSAKI: And if I could just add a couple more points about the remarks today. So the President will also talk about a plant in Newton, Iowa that used to be a Maytag plant that shut down and now is making wind turbines. It’s been able to revitalize the community there, and it’s really a story about how investing in clean energy, investing in the kind of innovative technologies, like wind turbines, is really helping communities grow and thrive in places like Iowa.
We were in -- some of you were with us last week when we were in Pueblo, Colorado. There was a story in the local paper in Colorado today announcing that they had to lay off 100 -- 20 percent -- of their workers as a result of the wind tax credit being not extended. So that’s a story from another state.
And, finally, just to echo what Jay say about it being bipartisan -- Republicans in Iowa, including Governor Terry Branstad, including Congressman Steve King, are in utter disbelief that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, his running mate, have opposed the tax credit. Not only have they opposed it, Mitt Romney called the benefits of wind energy “imaginary.” And Paul Ryan called this a “fad.”
So you’ll hear the President talk about that in his remarks today. And it shows, again, their complete misunderstanding of what’s driving the growth of the economy in Iowa and the industries that are helping communities like Newton, like Oskaloosa thrive and grow.
One other thing I just wanted to make sure you saw this morning -- the campaign put out another -- a web video in response to the second ad that the Romney campaign did, that is a bold-faced lie, about the President’s record on welfare. So that’s something just to look out for. And I will say this is an issue where President Clinton, countless economists, countless fact-checkers have said this is a mischaracterization of the President’s record. And they continue to put millions of dollars behind ads across the state. This is a central argument, which, again, is false, about their record. I’m sorry, I’m getting a little animated here.
With that, we’ll take your questions.
Q Jay, on Syria -- the former prime minister defected. He said he was joining the rebels. And he said today that the regime appears to be close to collapse. Does the administration have any sense of whether some sort of collapse could happen within days? And are there any steps that the administration is considering -- additional aid, perhaps additional sanctions -- to sort of push it in that direction?
MR. CARNEY: There is no question, Ken, that we have seen a series of high-level defections from the Assad regime, both its government and its military leadership. We’ve also seen defections at middle and lower levels, and we expect this to continue. It demonstrates the fact that Assad no longer has control over his country, and reinforces the fact that Syria’s future cannot and will not include Assad.
The sooner that Assad steps aside, the sooner the Syrian people will be able to complete a political transition in that country that will give them a better chance at a future that includes prosperity and a government that represents the interest of the people and responds to the aspirations of the Syrian people. We have said that we believe Assad’s days are numbered, but I would not hazard a guess at how many days are left in his tenure.
We are doing everything we can with our allies to tighten the noose, if you will, around Assad through diplomatic and financial means, through sanctions and international pressure. We recently announced new sanctions out of the Treasury Department. And you can expect that we’ll continue to look for ways to increase the pressure on Assad and deprive Assad of the funds that he depends on to wage war against his own people.
Q Jay, while President Obama is here talking about wind energy, we expect Mitt Romney to be in another part of the country talking about energy of a different kind. And I'm just wondering, is that a contrast that the President will speak to directly? And also, are you concerned that some swing voters may not be prepared to abandon traditional energy sources and will see this as that choice?
MR. CARNEY: Let me start, as a matter of policy, that, as I mentioned before, the President has pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy that has resulted in an increase of domestic oil and gas production; has resulted in a decrease in imports of foreign oil; has resulted in, because of the investments this administration has made, a doubling of renewable energy production in this country.
And that all-of-the-above strategy is the best and only way to achieve the energy independence that this country needs for economic, environmental, and national security reasons. You have to be a member of the Flat Earth Society to not recognize that we need to exploit all means of domestic energy production. And that’s what the President has done.
MS. PSAKI: And let me just add one thing to Margaret. And I couldn’t hear you quite -- were you asking about Romney's Ohio --
Q Just contrasting the -- it's obviously energy day on the campaign trail today, and I'm just -- so I guess my question is, what do you make out of that, the fact that they're answering your energy message with their own energy message? And do you have some concerns that swing voters may be -- may think that their choice is wind energy versus traditional energy?
MS. PSAKI: So just to add to what Jay said, actions speak louder than words. And the American people are smart, and people in states like Iowa and Ohio study the candidates’ records, they study what they stand for and what their policies are.
In addition to what we've already talked about, about wind energy and what Jay mentioned about the President's all-above energy plan -- on coal, which I understand is what Mitt Romney plans to attack the President on today, let's not forget that Mitt Romney has been a longtime critic; he once said that coal-fired plants kill people in Massachusetts. And the President's record on this has been one where he's invested in clean coal energy technology. The coal industry employment is at a 15-year high.
So again, the record speaks for itself, and we're happy to stand by ours. And if you look at -- just because you say something, it doesn’t mean that your record is backing it up. And their claim that they are for an all-above energy strategy just isn't backed up by the policies that they're out there talking about.
Q Can I ask, to both of you, Iowa was sort of the -- was the state that kind of galvanized then-senator Obama's campaign for the presidency. In this three-day bus trip, does he feel like he's rekindling any of that old magic? How is he feeling? How are you guys feeling about it?
MS. PSAKI: I will say he's in -- I think he's having a great time meeting people, seeing familiar faces, seeing new faces. He's met countless people who have said, I was with you in '08, I'm with you again; people who haven’t been voters before who are getting engaged in the process.
This is, as you touched on, this is where the journey began for him, and where it began for the First Lady, and Iowa will always have a special place in their hearts. And they know the people in Iowa expect they're going to lift the hood -- be able to lift the hood and kick the tires, ask tough questions, hear about specific policy answers. And spending three days allows us to go from one side of the state to the other, to meet people who are farmers, people who are working on wind turbines, people who are working in cities. And it gives him a taste and flavor of what everybody is going through in the state. So that’s one of the reasons we're spending the time we are here.
MR. CARNEY: Just in terms of the President -- and you've seen it at the events and, most recently, this morning at Coffee Connection in Knoxville -- a terrific enterprise where I enjoyed an egg-and-ham sandwich as well as a large coffee and I bought a T-shirt -- he's in a great mood. He loves being out on the road. He loves being in Iowa. On the bus, you can just feel his energy, and it's real fun to be out here with him.
Q What does the T-shirt say?
MR. CARNEY: It says "Coffee Connection" on the front, and "Life is too short to drink cheap coffee" on the back.
Q What's up with the Republican owner of the Coffee Connection? I mean, did you guys know he was Republican?
MS. PSAKI: The way that we pick places like that, we come up with a couple of options that people locally go and spend time -- because when the President is coming, we're not giving them an hour notice. So Coffee Connection is a coffee place in Knoxville where people are usually there at 10:00 in the morning, and we knew the President could pop in. It was a great place. We don’t party-I.D. people when we go to local establishments.
So we loved the small business owner. We loved his story and we loved his coffee.
Q On Medicare -- why should people 55 years old or older be concerned about the Paul Ryan Medicare plan?
MS. PSAKI: All right, I’m glad you asked. (Laughter.) One, just on the top line, there is a clear difference between what President Obama is talking about on Medicare, what his plan is and what the Romney/Ryan plan is. Mitt Romney said yesterday that they're very close on issues, that there is no space between them on issues. That’s not an exact quote but a paraphrase. So I think we can all safely assume that they're on the same place.
So for today's seniors, with the Romney/Ryan plan, prescription drugs would go up, out-of-pocket expenses would go up, benefits would go down, Medicare would become insolvent in four years. After the Ryan plan kicks in, Medicare would be completely destabilized once it kicks in. Younger, healthier seniors would purchase low-cost vouchers.
What we know, bottom line, is that President Obama's plan strengthens and extends the life of the program. Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan's plan leaves the cost on the back of seniors. This is one of the reasons why, if you look at -- I'm sure all of you are very busy, you're not flipping through the Florida clips every day -- but typically, when a vice presidential nominee is announced, there is a huge bump, everybody is happy, excited, there's energy around it.
This has been a stumbling-out-of-the-starting block situation for them, where, in Florida, there were -- people in Florida were woken up every day to this -- since he was announced -- to headlines like, Miami Herald: "Ryan Could Be A Drag On Romney In Florida"; St. Petersburg Blog: "Ryan Won't Be With Romney In Florida Tomorrow; Is He Medi-Scared?" -- quite a play on words -- Tampa Tribune: "Romney's VP Choice Could Be Risky In Swing State Of Florida." That’s not typically what you get, and we know it's because their radical budget could have a devastating impact on not just seniors -- but that is one area where it certainly could -- but college students. And this is an area where we know we'll continue to be having a debate.
Q Is that something that the President will start addressing as well today, or otherwise on the trail -- specifically Medicare in general and Congressman Ryan?
MS. PSAKI: Mitt Romney is our opponent, as you know. And to the degree Paul Ryan is -- Paul Ryan of course is his running mate, as you also know. And it really -- him picking Paul Ryan further solidifies his beliefs, his embrace of the radical budget, his embrace of these “let's go back to the 1950s” approaches to women's issues.
The President is going to be talking about wind today, and the difference between his vision and the Romney/Ryan vision. So that’s what you'll hear from him today. But it's clear there's a contrast on their budgets -- I mean, I'm sorry, on their approaches to the economy, including their approach to the budget. And we know that will continue to be part of the debate.
Q Why doesn’t he just address it, then? Why doesn’t he talk about Medicare if that’s what everybody is concerned about?
MS. PSAKI: We have almost 90 days left. You never know. I'm not going to get ahead of where we are today. Today we're talking about wind, but in Florida they're talking about Medicare. In other states, they're talking about the drastic impact on women's issues. In other states, they're talking about how this will impact student aid.
We know this is an important part of the debate. Mitt Romney's position is Paul Ryan's position. They're running on the same ticket, and their approach to Medicare and their approach to health care would be devastating for people across this country.
Q Can you give us some examples, as far as like the women's issues that you guys are concerned about, what are some of these things that Romney and Ryan have in mind that are bad?
MS. PSAKI: Well, how long do you have? (Laughter.) Look, I think they've been very clear that they want to go back to a time when women could not make choices about their own health care; where contraception is not a part of what employers are providing. They've made this an issue that has taken us back in time, and that’s something that women across the country are concerned about. You heard Sandra Fluke introduce the President last week. And also, I'll add in equal pay, ensuring women have equal pay. That’s not a priority for the Republican ticket, and I think it raises a lot of red flags for women across the country.
Q Jay, on the production tax credit, if Congress fails to act, is there anything that the administration can do on its own administratively or with an executive order? And if so, is that on the table?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would say broadly that when it comes to taking measures to help our economy grow and help sectors of our economy like wind energy production, the President is always evaluating every option, including administrative options.
However, Congress has the responsibility and the authority to act on renewal of the production tax credit, and it's in Congress's court to take this action. The President strongly supports it; there is bipartisan support. You've heard Republican officials, both in Iowa and elsewhere, say how surprised they are by the opposition in Washington from leaders in the House and Senate, including, for example, Paul Ryan, who don’t support renewal of this important wind energy tax credit.
And I think what is shocking about it -- because it goes to the all-of-the-above energy strategy that the President has put in place -- is that they don’t support an energy tax credit that has bipartisan support out in the country that helps an industry that is growing in the 21st century and will be an increasingly important part of our energy portfolio in the 21st century, but they refuse to forego or support the elimination of loopholes and tax benefits, and subsidies for oil and gas companies, which, of course, as you know, over the past several years have enjoyed historically high profits. I think that says a lot about their backward-looking view when it comes to our energy future.
Q Does that credit go back to '05? Is that why that date -- you gave a stat of how much more production there has been since '05. Is that when the --
MR. CARNEY: I'd have to check. I'm not sure how old the tax credit is, but it has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past.
Q Will we hear the President say anything about ethanol while he's in Iowa?
MS. PSAKI: He spoke about it yesterday when he was meeting with some rural reporters.
Q What did he say?
MS. PSAKI: Let me look up and see if I can get you something from that. Ethanol is -- he has been a strong supporter of ethanol and cellulosic ethanol. He absolutely believes in it, he thinks it's a driver of the economy here and a key component of renewable energy. I'll check and see if there's any plans to include it in remarks otherwise and see if I can get you something more specific.
Q Were the local reporters asking him, specifically in the drought conditions, about like livestock feed cost and stuff? Or --
MS. PSAKI: No, just about access -- just about renewable energy, given it's such an important issue here in Iowa, and all the ways that they can grow those industries in Iowa.
One thing just to add on your health care question, or women's question -- and this is a fairly obvious one, I can't believe I forgot to mention -- the fact that Mitt Romney wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have a devastating impact on women, not just on cost but on the elimination -- right now, women can get pre-screenings for mammograms, Pap smears. They also want to defund Planned Parenthood. The list goes on and on -- but those are two key ones I would also add.
Q When you listed off the ways that the Ryan budget would affect seniors who are now over 55, those first things were things that fell in the category of repealing the Affordable Care Act, right?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
MR. CARNEY: That’s very much part of the Ryan budget. And I think an elemental fact that has to be reckoned with here is that the Romney/Ryan approach, the Republican approach to Medicare is one that ends it as we know it over time, not to make investments in energy or education or innovation, but to provide substantial new tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The savings that are found, that are withdrawn from Medicare in the Republican plan come from cost-shifting, as opposed to the savings that have been put forward by the President through the Affordable Care Act and through his own budget proposals.
The end result, as the Congressional Budget Office has said, is an extra $6,200 per year per senior for their health care costs. And seniors across the country simply, by and large, cannot afford that. And what happens when you voucherize the program, as a matter of policy, is that, as Jen mentioned, younger, healthier seniors take advantage of private plans, which drive up -- and private plans don’t want older, less healthy seniors, and they remain in traditional Medicare creating a situation where traditional Medicare is not financially stable, and it creates what's called in the business a "death spiral" for Medicare. That is not a happy message, I think, to take to America's seniors.
Q -- today in his remarks in terms of defending his posture on --
MS. PSAKI: The remarks focus on the wind tax credit, but I’m happy to get you or anybody specifics on his record versus Mitt Romney’s record so let me know.
Q Anything on the White House beer since we’re -- the tape is rolling?
Q Yes, explain that.
Q He surprised all of us -- what’s the deal?
MR. CARNEY: What do you mean, what’s the deal? It’s been written about and talked about before that the White -- that there is a home brew, if you will, at the White House.
Q Does he regularly travel with it?
Q Does he drink it?
Q -- moving this at interstate commerce. Does the Treasury Department know about this? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I have to take those questions.
Q Have you tasted it, Jay? What does it taste like?
MR. CARNEY: It is superb. It is quite good.
Q Who’s the beer master?
Q Is it light beer? Heavy?
MR. CARNEY: I think the President said there are two types -- there’s a light and a dark. I think I’ve only tried the light, and it’s quite refreshing.
Q Does the President drink it sometimes?
MR. CARNEY: I have seen him, yes, have a --
Q During the beer summit, the White House beer was not observed.
MS. PSAKI: I think that may have been pre --
MR. CARNEY: I think that may have been before they had White House beer.
Q Any other distilleries in the White House we don’t know about? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: There’s a lot going on behind the trees on the South Lawn.
MS. PSAKI: Quiñoa for healthy living.
Q Who’s the beer master?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to -- I have exhausted my knowledge about this subject. (Laughter.) Usually, when somebody hands me a beer I don’t ask how it was made. I just drink it.
MS. PSAKI: I will add, since some of you asked, last night at the fair, a combination of David Axelrod, David Plouffe, myself, Jon Favreau, Alyssa Mastromonaco, and Eugene Kang probably ate half a dozen turkey legs, a dozen fried Oreos, four fried Snickers, fried Twinkies, fried ho-hos -- we really did it up at the fair. We’re all still functioning today. The fried Oreos, I think, is a group favorite so if you have the chance to go out --
MR. CARNEY: Jen left out that they had a few beers, too.
MS. PSAKI: We did. (Laughter.) We’re all above 21.
11:17 A.M. CDT