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President talks clean energy with Charlotte-area employees

President Obama speaks to employees at Charlotte's Celgard plant.
President Obama speaks to employees at Charlotte's Celgard plant.

President Obama's visit brought a spotlight to Charlotte's emerging energy sector, which includes Duke Energy and Siemens. Celgard, where the president visited, makes components for batteries that power electric cars. The president spoke for about 15 minutes about the national jobs numbers, which he called "encouraging." Then he turned the microphone over to Celgard employees for questions, and the topic at the top of their lists was clean energy. "I'm concerned that your decision to allow offshore drilling could have the effect of chilling investment into alternate sources of energy," says Michael Shore. James Hill asked the president, "How long do you think it will take for us to have more hybrid vehicles on the road than gas vehicles and what would it take?" "The limousines that you drive, will they be electric and with Celgard membranes in them sometime soon?" asked Matt Littsler. "You know, I'm gonna be honest with you," replied the president. He explained his armored vehicles are too heavy to run efficiently on electric or hybrid power. He said developing clean sources of fuel is one of his top priorities, but it may be 10 or 20 years before those technologies can completely replace fossil fuels. "In the interim, we've got to look at our traditional energy sources and figure out how we can use those most effectively," said President Obama. He also drew attention to the energy efficiency priorities in his economic recovery package. Celgard received one of those grants for $49 million and has pledged to create about 300 new jobs. In the last several months, energy-related companies have announced thousands of new positions in the region. Charlotte officials hope companies like Celgard, Duke Energy and Siemens will attract others and create a significant new job sector in the local economy.