Obama Hosts Cyber Town Hall

So what we’ve got to do is create new jobs that can’t be outsourced. And that’s why energy is so promising. We’ve been talking about what’s called a smart grid, and some of you may have heard of this. The basic idea is, is that we’re still using an electricity grid that dates back 100, 150 years ago. Well, think about all the gizmos you guys are carrying — (laughter) –all the phones and the BlackBerrys and the this and the that. You’re plugging in all kinds of stuff in your house. We’ve got an entirely new set of technologies, huge demands in terms of energy, but we’ve got a grid that’s completely outdated.

Now, one of the things that we wanted to do in the stimulus package was to go ahead and start laying a new grid. And to do that, it’s like building the Transcontinental Railroad. You’ve got a — it’s a huge project involving all 50 states.

The benefits of the grid are that we could reduce our energy costs by billions of dollars. We could set up systems so that everybody in each house have their own smart meters that will tell you when to turn off the lights, when the peak hours are, can help you sell back energy that you’ve generated in your home through a solar panel or through other mechanisms. If we get plug-in hybrid cars, you can plug it in at night and sell back electricity to the utility, and then charge up your car again in the morning before you leave.

All this can be done, but it also creates jobs right now. Our biggest problem, we don’t have enough electricians to lay all these lines out there. And these are jobs — these are union jobs that potentially pay $80,000-$90,000 a year, with benefits. But it’s a matter of making the investment in infrastructure and also then training the workers to be able to get those jobs. And that’s where we’re going to be focused on. That’s where the job growth is going to occur.

One last point I want to make — and I know I’m not supposed to talk this long, but we’re going to have to be patient and persistent about job creation because I don’t think that we’ve lost all the jobs we’re going to lose in this recession. We’re still going to be in a difficult time for much of this year. Employment is typically what’s called a lagging indicator. Now, this is — Dr. Bernstein, he’s a Ph.D. economist, so he’ll correct me if I’m wrong here, but –

DR. BERNSTEIN: I’m sure I can make this really confusing. (Laughter.)

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