By Philip Elliott
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama delivered an Earth Day pitch for his alternative energy plan and environmentally friendly jobs Wednesday in a return to Iowa, the state that launched him on the road to the White House.
The visit came as Obama's energy legislation has slowed in Congress, with skeptical Republicans and some Democrats from coal-producing states fearing the plan will increase costs for consumers, send jobs overseas and hurt businesses.
In financially struggling Newton, Iowa, Obama toured — then highlighted — Trinity Structural Towers wind energy plant as a model for job creation and energy production in a town whose biggest employer was sold and then stopped operations. He walked the factory floor, chatting with employees while welders working with 20-foot pipes sent sparks flying. Obama also watched a demonstration of how thick slabs of metal were made into cones.
Newton's Maytag Corp. appliances plant closed in 2007, costing the small city hundreds of jobs. But a year later, the state announced that Trinity Structural Towers would build a $21 million factory on the former Maytag site and employ about 140 workers, in exchange for business incentives and tax breaks.
The administration contends that the president's plan will create jobs and protect the environment.
In an Earth Day proclamation, Obama said protecting the nation's natural resources "not only fulfills a sacred obligation to our children and grandchildren, but also provides an opportunity to stimulate economic growth."
Obama's post-inauguration itinerary reads like a list of battleground and Republican-leaning states that helped lift him to the presidency and will be critical in any re-election bid. He's traveled to Colorado, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Florida. The visit to Iowa Wednesday was his first since the election.