Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, 4/28/2010
9:46 A.M. CDT
MR. BURTON: Good morning. Thank you for joining us. We’re going to have some long drives today, but we’ll see some beautiful parts of the country.
So, at 12:20 p.m., the President is going to tour the facility at POET Biorefining. The remarks will be about 1:00 p.m. It’s in Macon, Missouri. He’ll talk to workers about what they’re experiencing during these tough economic times and share ideas for rebuilding our economy in the long term. Secretary Vilsack is, again, along with us for the day. He’ll be with us all the way to the White House later on.
At that event we expect all the statewide officials and the mayor of Macon, Doug Bagley; the general manager of POET Biorefining, Steve Burnett, will lead the tour.
We will then -- sorry, just a little more on POET. In Macon they produced their first ethanol in May of 2000, starting with an annual production capacity of 15 million gallons. Three years later the plant expanded its capacity to 46 million gallons per year and added the production of Dakota Gold Distillers Grains and carbon dioxide. The Macon facility was the first ethanol plant in the state of Missouri and currently employs 45 people.
The plant purchases 16 million bushels of corn from 650 local farmers, which annually produces, like I said, 46 million gallons of ethanol, which primarily goes to St. Louis and Palmyra, Missouri, 140,000 tons of high-protein animal feed called Dakota Gold Distillers Grains that’s sold to area farmers, and 94,000 tons of CO2, which is sold to soft-drink companies, food processors, water treatment facilities, to name a few. They also have really cool commercials at POET.
He’ll later have a kitchen table-type discussion with a local farm family to discuss their operation.
At 4:00 p.m., we’ll be in Quincy, at the Oakley Lindsay Civic Center. You guys might remember in 2008 this was the place where the President went and sandbagged in preparation for the floods. And later he’ll -- and that’s where he’ll deliver remarks on Wall Street reform.
There will be about 2,000 folks in attendance; 70 percent of the tickets were distributed Tuesday on a first come, first serve basis; the other 30 percent, as per normal, distributed by the White House to local groups and elected officials.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
Q Can you preview the remarks in Quincy this afternoon, at least a little bit?
MR. BURTON: Sure. Well, the President is going to talk about the fact that it doesn’t take a degree from the Harvard School of Economics to understand that on Wall Street things are getting back to normal. But if you look around Main Street in rural America, a lot of the places where we’ve been, we’re a far place from a normal that should be acceptable to anyone. And if you look at the kind of economic crisis that nearly brought our economy to its knees with the collapse of financial firms and the bailouts that were required, the President firmly believes and will make the case that we need real reforms in place to prevent those sorts of catastrophes from happening again.
So he’ll talk about the need for Wall Street reform, what it means to Main Street in rural America, and the need to do it right now.
There’s been a lot of talk about this issue for a long time, and people on both sides are saying that they want to get something done. But it’s time to act.
Q Is he getting impatient?
MR. BURTON: I’m sorry?
Q Is he getting impatient?
MR. BURTON: The President has been impatient on this issue for a very long time. We need action in the Senate to move this forward.
Q Now that we’re facing a third vote in the Senate, does he have any indication from lawmakers that that vote is going to go any different than the previous two on getting the debate started?
MR. BURTON: As we took off the conversations were still happening with lawmakers on the Hill, and I don’t have any further update for you, but that’s an ongoing process.
Q Has he had conversations with lawmakers?
MR. BURTON: None that I know of.
Q So it’s people from the administration who have been having conversations with lawmakers.
MR. BURTON: That’s right.
Q Is there any reason Secretary Vilsack didn’t speak at any of the events yesterday? He was governor of Iowa; he seems to be very popular in the state.
MR. BURTON: No particular reason. But he’s -- oh, he did actually speak at the pre-programs for some of the events yesterday.
Q Oh, he did? Okay.
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q Bill, why didn’t the President call out Charles Grassley, since he’s talking about financial regulation and he was in Iowa yesterday and he voted against the bill?
MR. BURTON: There’s always a lot of things that the President can say or not say, but I’m not going to get into the, like, ins and outs of every non-utterance the President doesn’t make.
Q But we were in Iowa.
MR. BURTON: We were in Iowa, and it is a fine state. (Laughter.)
Q Do you have any reaction to the Greek debt crisis, which seems to be spreading, and was hitting markets pretty hard yesterday?
MR. BURTON: This is something that is of great concern to the President. We’re monitoring it very closely. And officials from Treasury and other appropriate agencies are in close contact with folks in Europe about the issue.
Q Is there something to be said about the timing of this clean energy push while the Gulf of Mexico is being set on fire, there was this mine disaster related to coal?
MR. BURTON: We’ve been having a -- we’ve been in the midst of real energy problems for a very long time. Our dependence on foreign oil is too much. The amount of emissions that we put out of our vehicles and factories is too high. And this is an issue that the President has been committed to making progress on.
Like I said yesterday, on the substance, there is bipartisan agreement on what we need to do to move forward to help to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, help to increase our production of clean energies here. And basically we’re just in the midst of a process question. And the President is confident that given the fact that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on what we need to do to move forward, that we’re going to be able to make some very important progress on this issue.
Q What about the oil rigs off the -- in the Gulf of Mexico? Is that going to affect your offshore drilling policy at all? Is that coming into consideration or play?
MR. BURTON: Well, there’s a joint investigation currently underway that multiple agencies across the executive branch are participating in. The President is very closely monitoring the situation. People at the highest levels of the administration have been meeting with officials at BP to discuss not just the cleanup there but what happened there.
We take very seriously the concerns that people have and the issue that’s -- issues that are underway today in the cleanup and the fire. But the President is eagerly anticipating the outcome of the joint investigation.
Q But do you think that he’ll continue the push for offshore drilling?
MR. BURTON: Well, I’m not going to get in front of what the investigation produces.
Q Any reaction to the Goldman testimony yesterday?
MR. BURTON: I’m not going to comment on what is ultimately an ongoing enforcement action on the SEC. But like I said earlier, there are real problems on Wall Street. There are -- there’s a need to rein in some of the practices that got us into this mess. There’s a need for more transparency and there’s a need to protect consumers.
The President is committed to making sure that we make progress and get Wall Street reform done.
Q Thank you.
Q Have you seen “Barack the Barbarian”?
MR. BURTON: I have seen that comic book. I liked it because it had few words and lots of pictures -- made it easy to understand. (Laughter.) But when you come to Iowa you see all sorts of fun things, and it’s nice to see the manifestation of somebody’s creative energy in the President slaying a large elephant.
Q Are you referring to Sarah the Red?
MR. BURTON: No, the big elephant.
Q The actual elephant. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you.
MR. BURTON: All right, thanks.
9:55 A.M. CDT