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Obama to announce new slate of climate actions

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By Adam Aigner-Treworgy

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (CNN) -- During a visit to a Wal-Mart store just a few miles from Stanford University on Friday, President Barack Obama will announce a new series of executive actions meant to bolster green-job creation and combat carbon pollution.

"These initiatives will help cut pollution by more than 380 million metric tons of carbon, save businesses nearly $26 billion on their energy bills and support worker training programs across the country," said Dan Utech, a special assistant to the President for energy and climate change, on a conference call previewing Friday's announcement.

The intended goals of the more than half-dozen actions vary from increasing training available for workers looking to enter the solar energy industry to improving the efficiency of machines like escalators and refrigerator motors to finalizing new building codes that reduce emissions on new construction.

One of the initiatives will increase the efficiency of federal buildings by issuing $2 billion in new energy efficiency performance contracts over the next three years. According to Mike Boots, acting director of the Council on Environmental Quality, these contracts use "long-term energy savings to pay for upfront costs" associated with upgrading federal buildings.

"We've already seen impressive progress here," Boots said on the same conference call, pointing to a similar $2 billion commitment the president made in 2011. "Actual savings through the use of performance contracts so far have exceeded the savings guaranteed by those contracts, and the President firmly believes that the federal government should lead by example."

One way the administration has tried to set an example is by installing U.S.-made solar panels on the roof of the White House, installed last summer as part of what spokesman Matt Lehrich called "an energy retrofit."

"The retrofit includes the installation of energy-saving equipment such as updated building controls and variable speed fans, as well as 6.3 kilowatts of solar generation," Lehrich said in a statement. "The project, which helps demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades, is estimated to pay for itself in energy savings over the next eight years."

White House officials quietly announced that the installation was happening in August of last year, but on Friday they released a video featuring an explainer by the building's head butler on how the panels were installed and interviews with members of the administration praising the benefits of solar energy.

The President also plans to use the visit to California Friday to reveal commitments from more than 300 private companies and public sector organizations to make the buildings they use more energy efficient.

"No matter where you live or do business, whether it's a single family or multi-family, commercial, industrial, urban or rural, solar is getting cheaper and easier to use than ever before," Utech said. "Together, the solar commitments represent more than 850 megawatts that will be deployed, enough to power nearly 130,000 homes."

A fact sheet distributed to the media outlining the details of the announcement brags that these new solar commitments "span every corner of the United States." They also include commitments from well-known companies like Clif Bar, Apple, Ikea and Whole Foods to increase solar usage.

The President will likely point to his host on Friday, Wal-Mart, as an example of a corporate leader on the issue of solar. The company has set a goal of producing or procuring 7 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 and as part of that is committing to double the number of solar projects at its facilities.

"The Wal-Mart commitment is a significant commitment ... that's one of the reasons the President is going to be there," Utech said. "But as you'll see, we have commitments from many, many other companies, many other kinds of entities -- from homebuilders, to owners of multi-family housing, to rural electric co-ops."

Beyond just increasing the use of solar energy, companies like Citi and Goldman Sachs have committed to increase financing for solar construction projects, and Home Depot has committed to increasing the availability of information on solar in more than a thousand of its stores.

"The President is committed to continuing to advance clean energy in this country and create opportunity for hardworking Americans, and these commitments today represent a part of that progress," Utech said. But of course, there's more we can do, and that's why the President will announce additional steps the administration is taking through executive action on both renewables and energy efficiency to create jobs and cut energy waste and cut carbon pollution.

The-CNN-Wire

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