MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Flanked by bargain-priced displays of women's wear and patio lighting, President Barack Obama came to a Walmart in Silicon Valley on Friday to praise new steps by businesses and communities to deploy solar energy, showcasing efforts to combat climate change that don't rely on a disinclined Congress.
Obama said more than 300 companies and state and local governments have pledged to use solar technology, and he unveiled his executive actions aimed at increasing energy efficiency with a goal of reducing U.S. reliance on carbon-based fuels.
The two tracks underscored Obama's strategy of sidestepping Congress to advance his agenda, but they also illustrated the limits of his reach in a bitterly divided government.
"The commitments we're announcing prove that there are cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and create jobs at the same time," Obama said.
The solar effort will power the equivalent of 130,000 homes, the White House said, while Obama's administrative actions could reduce carbon pollution in an amount equal to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year. The White House also announced long-delayed energy efficiency standards for walk-in coolers and freezers have been completed.
Ticking off a list of economic and environmental benefits he attributed to solar technology, Obama cast the commitments as part of a broader campaign to reduce American energy dependence, create jobs in renewable energy and lower heat-trapping emissions blamed for global warming.
Tweaking the mostly Republican opponents of his energy policies in Congress, Obama lamented that lawmakers have "not always been as visionary on these issues as we would like."
His policies unable to generate momentum in Congress, Obama has increasingly gone outside the federal government to press his agenda. He has won commitments from colleges and universities to expand access to more students. He has created innovation hubs that link businesses and education institutions. And he has drawn attention to companies and state and local governments that have increased pay for workers.