WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Proponents of alternative energy and energy efficiency were elated on Thursday by President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus speech, but some analysts warned his energy agenda could hit turbulence in Congress or from the slow economy.
Obama asked Congress “to act without delay” to pass legislation that included doubling alternative energy production in the next three years and building a new electricity “smart grid.”
He said he also planned to modernize 75 percent of federal buildings and improve energy efficiency in 2 million homes to save consumers billions of dollars on energy bills.
Billionaire oil investor T. Boone Pickens said Obama’s plan would help kickstart the slow economy.
“Investing in alternative energy, focusing on conservation and rebuilding our power grid to deliver that energy to every corner of our country are critical components of this effort,” Pickens said in a statement.
“President-elect Obama’s prescriptions will address the twin challenges of an ailing economy and the threat of global warming,” the League of Conservation Voters said.
Some analysts questioned Obama’s ability to boost spending on higher-cost renewable fuels during a recession.
“It will be more difficult to meet the alternative fuel goals if oil prices keep falling and we are in a recession,” said Phil Flynn, oil analyst with Alaron Trading in Chicago.
It will take political finesse to implement the plan, said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citigroup in New York.
“All of the details of whatever policy he wants will be heavily negotiated in the legislative arena,” Evans said.
Solar stocks climbed after Obama said his economic recovery plan would result in more jobs building solar panels.
First Solar Inc (FSLR.O) rose 4.6 percent to $155.36, LDK Solar LDK.N closed 5.2 percent higher at $14.50, and SunTech Power STP.N was up 6.3 percent at $12.75. The shares outpaced the broad S&P 500 index, which climbed only 0.3 percent.
The solar industry is ready to create jobs as soon as funding from the stimulus plan comes through — in hard-hit manufacturing areas like Ohio and Michigan, said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“The reality is what President-elect Obama is talking about are policies and incentives that will create jobs in all 50 states,” Resch told Reuters.
Not everyone cheered Obama’s plan. Private companies could use domestic energy resources like oil and coal to create jobs without the hefty price tag for taxpayers, said Thomas Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research, in a statement.
“The road to economic recovery will be paved with private sector investment, not government-sponsored asphalt,” he said.
Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; additional reporting by Robert Gibbons and Joshua Schneyer in New York