Obama to Announce Clean Energy Plan for Buildings

President Barack Obama travels to Pennsylvania to announce a new clean energy program Thursday, seeking to show that his focus remains on the economy in a state that may be essential to re-election prospects in 2012.

Obama outlined a plan in his State of the Union address last month to boost development of clean energy technologies and double the U.S. share of electricity from clean energy sources -- such as wind, solar, nuclear and "clean" coal -- by 2035.

As part of that program, Obama will announce a plan to improve energy efficiency in U.S. commercial buildings by offering businesses incentives to help pay for clean energy upgrades of offices, stores and other buildings.

Obama's push for the United States to build a green economy is part of a global race to dominate what is seen as a potentially huge industry in solar, wind and other alternative energies that offer wealth and energy independence.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.4 percent despite signs of economic recovery, Obama's push for green energy jobs is an important part of his high-stakes effort to tackle joblessness -- the problem most on the minds of voters, even as issues like the turmoil in Egypt dominate the headlines.

"This initiative has the potential to really unlock a large amount of investment, some of which is sitting on the sidelines right now ... and create jobs at a time when that has to be our central focus," a senior administration official said Wednesday.

The Better Buildings Initiative that Obama will announce at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania, is meant to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, reduce companies' and business owners' energy bills by about $40 billion per year and save energy, the White House said.

Administration officials would not detail the plan's cost but said it would be paid for by ending tax subsidies for oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels.

Obama took Pennsylvania with a margin of more than 10 percent over his Republican challenger when he won the presidency in 2008 but in 2010 the state's voters backed Republicans for governor, a U.S. Senate seat and a majority of its seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Editing by Bill Trott)