• Barack Obama presses Capitol Hill on energy reforms• Budget will include $15bn a year for alternative fuels
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 25 February 2009 03.54 GMT
Barack Obama raised the development of a green economy to the top of America's agenda tonight, calling on Congress to pass a law cutting the carbon emissions that cause global warming.
The president, in a rousing speech to both houses of Congress, tried to put to rest fears that the economic recession would force him to scale back ambitious plans for energy reforms.
Instead, he made it clear that he sees a direct link between America's long-term economic interests and the development of clean energy, budgeting additional funds for research into wind and solar power.
The president also pressed Congress to push ahead on a new law to cut greenhouse gas emissions, defying critics who say cap-and-trade measures could be a brake on economic recovery.
"To truly transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy," the president said. "So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."
Barely a week after the passage of his $787bn economic rescue plan, Obama came back to Congress with plans for further green investment.
The recovery plan devoted more than $100bn to making private homes and government buildings more efficient, developing wind and solar power and spending money on public transport.
But the president promised even more tonight, saying his budget, which will be announced on Thursday, would allocate $15bn a year to develop wind and solar power and more fuel-efficient cars.
"We are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry," he said. "The nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."
Obama also set out a plan to modernise the electric grid.
He said America needed to re-establish its leading role in the development of solar and other renewable energy technologies, after losing ground to China, Germany and Japan.
"I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don't either. It is time for America to lead again,"
The direct appeal for climate change legislation could re-energise efforts to produce legislation before global climate change talks get underway in Copenhagen next December.
White House officials admitted on Monday it was increasingly uncertain such legislation could pass in time, and that the deadline might slip to 2010.