Remarks by the President on Innovation at Penn State University

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: Feb. 3, 2011
Location: University Park, PA

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Nittany Lions! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Please have a seat. Have a seat.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I love you back. Thank you. It's great to be here. (Applause.) It is good to be back in Happy Valley. (Applause.) It's good to be back at Penn State. I want to say, first of all, thank you to Graham Spanier, your President; -- (applause) -- Elizabeth Goreham, the Mayor of State College. (Applause.) Congressman Glenn Thompson is here.

I met this guy -- I hadn't heard of him before, but apparently he coaches your football team -- Joe Paterno is in the house. (Applause.)

And one last introduction I want to make. Some of you know I have these military aides. They go with me everywhere. They're from each branch of our Armed Services. They're the ones who carry the football -- you've heard of that? So they're really important guys. Well, it just so happens that the military aide with me today is Mr. Sam Price, lieutenant colonel in the Air Force -- happens to be Penn State class of '95. (Applause.) Sam Price right here. (Applause.) So we've got some Lions who are taking care of business on Air Force One as well as here on campus.

Now, last week I visited a small town in Wisconsin that was right next to Green Bay.

AUDIENCE: Ooooh --

THE PRESIDENT: So in the spirit of fairness, I've come to Pennslyvania -- (laughter) -- not too far from the center of Steeler Nation -- (applause) -- to wish Steelers' fans good luck in the Super Bowl, too. (Applause.)

Two years ago I stole one of the team's owners, Dan Rooney, to be our ambassador to Ireland. So I've got some love for the Steelers. I also am aware, though, that this state splits up a little bit, so I suspect there may be a few Eagles fans. (Applause.) You're with us Bears fans. (Laughter.) Sitting at home, watching. (Laughter.)

But that small town in Wisconsin and the borough of State College have something else in common besides championship football teams. These are places where the future will be won. These are the places where the new jobs and the world's best businesses will take root -- right here in State College; right here in Pennsylvania.

In the short term, obviously we've got to focus on the devastation that occurred because of this recession over the last two years. And the best thing we can do to speed up economic growth is to make sure that people and businesses have more money to spend. And that's exactly what the tax cut that we passed in December is doing. Because Democrats and Republicans came together, Americans' paychecks will be a little bit bigger this year. And businesses will be able to write off their investments, and companies will grow and jobs will be created. That's all good in the short term.

But the reason I wanted to come here to Penn State is to talk about the long term. The reason I wanted to talk to young people is to talk about the future and how we're going to win it.

If we want to make up for the millions of jobs that were lost in this recession, but more importantly, if we want to make sure that America is still a place where you can make it if you try, where you can go as far as hard work and big dreams will take you, then we're going to have to make some serious decisions about our long-term economic health -- at a time when we're facing stiff competition from other nations for jobs and industries of our time.

And I know every young person here feels that pressure. You understand that it's not going to be a cakewalk, this competition for the future, which means all of us are going to have to up our game. We are going to have to win the future by being smarter and working harder and working together. If we want those jobs and businesses to thrive in the United States of America, we're going to have to out-innovate and out-educate and out-build the rest of the world. That's that we're going to have to do. (Applause.)

That means investing in cutting-edge research and technology. It means investing in the skills and training of our people. It means investing in transportation and communication networks that can move goods and information as fast as possible. And to make room for these investments, it means cutting whatever spending we just can't afford.

So I've proposed that we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years, which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade and will bring annual domestic spending to the lowest share of our economy since Eisenhower was President, meaning since way before most of you were born. (Laughter.) He said, not me. (Laughter.)

Now, just like Americans do every day, government has a responsibility to live within its means. But we also have a responsibility to invest in those areas that are going to have the biggest impact. And in this century those areas are education and infrastructure and innovation. (Applause.) And that last area, innovation is why I've come to Penn State today.

Innovation is what this country is all about. Sparking the imagination and creativity of our people, unleashing new discoveries -- that's what America does better than any other country on Earth. That's what we do. (Applause.) And this innovation has always been driven by individual scientists and entrepreneurs. I was up in Schenectady, New York the other day at the G.E. plant that was Thomas Edison's original plant. And anywhere you go in the country you will find inventors and businesses that created products that are now sent all around the world. But innovation has also flourished because we as a nation have invested in the success of these individual entrepreneurs, these inventors, these scientists.

In this country, from the moment you have a new idea, you can explore it in the world's best labs and universities; you can develop it with a research grant; you can protect it with a patent; you can market it with a loan to start a new business. You've got a chain that takes a great idea all the way through, and that's something that we as a nation have always invested in. It's how we as a people have advanced ideas from the earliest stages of research to the point where you can hand it off and let the private sector run with the ball. It's how investments and basic research led to things like the computer chip and GPS, and millions of good jobs.

In America, innovation isn't just how we change
our lives; it's how we make a living. And to support American innovation, what my administration is trying to do is not just hand out money. What we're doing is we're issuing a challenge. Because right now, some of the most promising innovation is happening in the area of clean energy technology -- technology that is creating jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and -- something that every young person here cares about -- making sure our planet is a healthier place to live that we can pass on to future generations. (Applause.)

So we're telling scientists and we're telling engineers all across the country that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on tackling the biggest obstacles to clean, abundant, and affordable energy, then we're going to get behind their work. We as a country will invest in them. We'll get them all in one place and we'll support their research. And we call these places, energy innovation hubs.

At CalTech, they're developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for cars. You like that. (Applause.) At Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, they're using supercomputers to find ways of getting much more power out of nuclear facilities. (Applause.)

And right here, right here at Penn State, a university whose motto is "making life better," you've answered the call. (Applause.) So today you're preparing to lead the way on a hub that will make America home to the most energy-efficient buildings in the world.

Now, that may not sound too sexy until -- (laughter) -- energy-efficient buildings. (Laughter.) But listen, our homes and our businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use. Think about that. Everybody focuses on cars and gas prices, and that's understandable. But our homes and our businesses use 40 percent of the energy. They contribute to 40 percent of the carbon pollution that we produce and that is contributing to climate change. It costs us billions of dollars in energy bills. They waste huge amounts of energy.

So the good news is we can change all that. Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America. And that's what we're going to do. (Applause.)

So that's what this energy innovation hub based in Philadelphia is going to be all about. You will help make America a world leader in innovative designs for cost-effective, energy-efficient buildings, from lighting to windows, from heating to cooling. All of it.

This is where we need you to push the envelope and ask just how efficient can our buildings be. Can they be self-sufficient, producing just as much energy as they consume? What new discoveries can we make? And soon you'll have a new place to answer these questions, a clean energy campus in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Now, this campus will be the product of a true collaboration. What, Penn State, you have done is develop an innovative model for how to do research. Government pulled resources from across different agencies to support your effort, from programs that train new workers and skills to loans for small businesses that will grow


and programs that train new workers and skills to loans for small businesses that will grow from your breakthroughs.

Private sectors are already pitching in to help. So IBM is providing supercomputers. Bayer MaterialScience is providing materials for insulation and facades that save energy. PPG Industries is providing walls that reflect sunlight and windows that reflect infrared. Building this campus will support jobs in all of these businesses, and the discoveries made on this campus will lead to even more jobs -- jobs in engineering; jobs in manufacturing; jobs in construction; jobs in installation; jobs in retail.

And they'll be more than jobs that help support families; they'll be jobs with a national purpose. Jobs that make our economy smarter, jobs that make our planet safer, jobs that maintain America's competitive edge in the 21st century. (Applause.)

Now, as any scientist will tell you, it's often a challenge to commercialize research. You come up with a great idea, but moving that new discovery from theory to practice or from the lab to the marketplace, that's a challenge. So that's why today, here at Penn State, I'm announcing what we're calling the Better Buildings Initiative, and it's a plan to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of America's businesses over the next decade. (Applause.)

So by reaching this goal, we could save America's businesses nearly $40 billion a year in their utility bills. Think about that -- $40 billion. That's money that could be spent growing those businesses and hiring new workers.

I'll just take one extreme example -- the Empire State Building. Right now its owners are investing in renovations that will reduce their energy consumption, and this investment will soon pay for itself and save them $4.4 million a year in energy costs. That one building.

Now, granted, it's a big building. (Laughter.) So most buildings aren't as big. They're not going to use as much energy as the Empire State Building. But what we're saying to people is if you're willing to make your buildings more energy-efficient, we'll provide new tax credits and financing opportunities for you to do so. (Applause.)

And this plan would build on the HOMESTAR program we proposed last year, which would have provided rebates of up to $3,000 for homeowners to make their own homes more energy-efficient. And these are upgrades that could save families hundreds of dollars each year in energy costs.

See, the problem for both homeowners and businesses is they'll recover the money that they make by lowering their utility bills, but they may not have the cash upfront. And if we can provide you -- if we can provide the American people an incentive, you'll recover that money. You'll get it back. And in the meantime, we're making our entire economy more efficient. So steps like these also can boost manufacturing and private sector jobs.

So over the last two years we've offered similar incentives for cities and companies and clean energy manufacturers that wanted to help America become more energy-efficient. I'll give you a couple of examples. In Maryland, our program helped an energy-saving window manufacturer boost business by 55 percent. In North Carolina, there's a company that makes energy-efficient lighting -- hired hundreds of new workers. A company that manufacturers LEDs just down the road from here in Altoona saw their business increase by a million bucks.

We're also going to support state and local governments who come up with the best ideas to make energy-efficient buildings the norm. So you show us the best ideas to change your game on the ground; we'll show you the money. (Applause.) We will show you the money, states and local government. (Applause.)

To get the private sector to lead by example I'm also issuing a challenge to CEOs, to labor, to building owners, to hospitals, universities and others to join us.

Now, tax credits mean lost revenue for Treasury. It costs money. Since we've got big deficits, we've got to pay for it. So to pay for it, I've asked Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars that we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) They are doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So it's time to stop subsidizing yesterday's energy; it's time to invest in tomorrow's. It's time to win the future. That's what our project is. (Applause.)

Now, Penn State is a place that knows a little bit about playing to win. Last I counted, Coach Paterno has got more than 400 wins under his belt. (Applause.) But your nation needs to win, too. We need you to be as proud of what you do in the lab as you are of what your football team does on the field. (Applause.) We need you to seek breakthroughs and new technologies that we can't even imagine yet. And especially the young people who are here, we need you to act with a sense of urgency -- to study and work and create as if the fate of the country depends on you -- because it does. It depends on you. (Applause.)

And if we're harnessing all the energy in this room, all the young people in this audience, then I'm confident we'll do it. We can do this because what this university is going to lead will be more than a pioneering research center or an economic engine for Pennsylvania and America for years to come. What you're going to do is lead a modern-day incubator for what sets us apart -- the greatest force that the world has ever known -- and that is the American ideal. (Applause.)

If you remember that and keep breaking new ground, if we as a country keep investing in you, I'm absolutely confident that America will win the future in this century, just like we did in the last.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.