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Obama: 'Insulation is sexy'

From NBC's Athena Jones
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- "Insulation is sexy" was President Obama's message today, as he urged Congress to provide temporary incentives to Americans who want to retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient.

The idea is one of the new initiatives the White House announced last week to help spur job creation as the nation faces 10% unemployment and the president's critics argue he has not done enough to help put people back to work.

Clean energy has long been a key part of the president's agenda. As a candidate, Obama often spoke about investments in renewable energy that he said would create 21st century jobs that could not be exported. Today at a Home Depot near Washington, he talked about how helping update older, inefficient homes would create jobs and help the environment in the process.

"I know the idea may not be very glamorous, although I get really excited about it," Obama chuckled as he described the discussion at a roundtable on job creation he took part in just before his remarks. "Insulation is sexy stuff."

The president went on to explain what he meant, saying that what's sexy about insulation is its ability to help save people money.

"Think about it this way, if you haven't upgraded your home yet, it's not just heat or cool air that's escaping, it's energy and money that you are wasting," he said. "If you saw $20 bills just sort of floating through the window up into atmosphere you'd try to figure out how you were gonna keep that, but that's exactly what's happening because of the lack of efficiency in our buildings."

Obama said a report from Vice President Joe Biden showed that, due to Recovery Act investments, a "major transformation of our economy is well underway" and that the country was on track to double renewable energy production and double the capacity to produce clean energy components -- like wind turbines solar panels -- in the United States by 2012. Recovery Act investments mean the about half a million American homes will have been upgraded by this time next year, he said, arguing the incentives he has proposed would go even further.

In a reference to the climate change debate, Obama reiterated his argument that clean energy is "a powerful engine" for growth and a job creator not a job destroyer.

"In the debate that's going on about climate change right now, a lot of people say we can't afford to deal with these emissions to the environment, but the fact of the matter is energy efficiency is a perfect example of how this can be a win win," he said, explaining that manufacturers win because they produce the materials needed for the retrofitting.

The president heads to Copenhagen later this week, where countries from around the globe are working toward an agreement to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama ended his brief remarks with a return to the sexy theme.

"See, I told you, insulation is sexy," he said to laughter and applause.