President Touts Renewable Energy at Mountain View Walmart as Labor Unions Protest

President Barack Obama announced new executive actions to reduce carbon pollution and global climate change in remarks Friday at a Walmart in Silicon Valley, as labor unions protested outside.

Obama touted the retail chain for its renewable energy efforts in the last decade and spotlighted his own administration's commitment to solar energy, saying that new jobs to cut carbon pollution would help boost employment.

Obama specifically lauded the specific Walmart store on Showers Drive in Mountain View for replacing lightbulbs with LEDs, providiing charging stations for electrical vehicles and installing solar panels on its roof.

But he did not choose Walmart to pick up a pair of cheap sweats after his speech, where the backdrop to his podium boasted signs offering "low prices of $4.77."

He addressed the crowd with a friendly "Hello, Mountain View," mentioning that he's been in California the last few days, attending fundraisers and wrapping up visits in Los Angeles and San Diego. He quipped he needed to return home to Washington by Sunday — Mother's Day — or Michelle Obama would not be a happy woman.

Obama said his new executive actions will lead to an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency investments, better buildings and smarter appliances and will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons — equivalent to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.

They will also save businesses nearly $26 billion on their energy bills and support training programs at community colleges nationwide to help 50,000 workers enter the solar industry by 2020, he said.

The site Obama chose to talk about his renewable energy efforts drew swift criticism from labor unions who are arguing that the retailer isn't kind to its workers.

Walmart employee Pam Marley said she hoped to hand Obama a letter she wrote about what it's like living paycheck to paycheck in the Silicon Valley. Marley said Walmart's low wages, inadequate benefits and unreliable work hours make it tough to get by.

Outside the store, protesters from Raise the Wage Mountain View Coalition and OUR Walmart held signs to protest his Walmart visit. It doesn't make sense for a president who is supporting an effort to raise the minimum wage to speak at Walmart, they said.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is on Walmart's board of directors, and she also is hosting Obama on this trip, his 17th visit to the Bay Area during his presidency.

While Walmart stores across the country have gained a dubious reputation for selling cheap products and paying non-union workers low wages, the chain is also credited for its more recent renewable energy efforts.  

The company's first solar project took off in 2005, and last year, Walmart had more than 335 renewable energy projects in operation or under development across the world, according to its website.

 NBC Bay Area's Nannette Miranda and Mark Matthews contributed to this report.

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