Obama, at Wal-Mart, touts efficiency -- but angers labor groups

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Obama, at Wal-Mart, touts efficiency -- but angers labor groups
US President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a reception for the Democratic National Committee May 8, 2014 in in San Jose, California. Obama is on the second day of a three day trip to California where he has largely been fundraising for Democrats. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a reception for the Democratic National Committee May 8, 2014 in in San Jose, California. Obama is on the second day of a three-day trip to California where he has largely been fundraising for Democrats. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a reception for the Democratic National Committee May 8, 2014 in in San Jose, California. Obama is on the second day of a three day trip to California where he has largely been fundraising for Democrats. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 08: President Barack Obama arives at MCAS Miramar aboard Air Force One on May 8, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 08: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer greets President Barack Obama at MCAS Miramar on May 8, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
People watch as US President Barack Obama's motorcade passes May 8, 2014 in Los Altos, California. Obama is on the second day of a three-day trip to California where he has largely been fundraising for Democrats. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A highway can be seen as Air Force One lands with US President Barack Obama at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on May 8, 2014 near San Diego, California. Obama is on the second day of a three-day trip to California where he has largely been fundraising for Democrats. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman takes a photograph of President Barack Obama as he speaks at a Democratic National Committee reception in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, May 8, 2014. Obama is spending three days in California raising money for the Democratic party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama greets the crowd after speaking at a Democratic National Committee reception in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, May 8, 2014. Obama is spending three days in California raising money for the Democratic party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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By JIM KUHNHENN

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- President Barack Obama is showcasing Wal-Mart, often a target of labor groups and other Democratic constituencies, to promote advances in energy efficiency in his broader campaign to confront climate change.

Obama on Friday was to announce commitments from more than 300 companies and local and state governments to use solar energy technology. He also was announcing executive actions aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. The White House says the solar effort will power the equivalent of 130,000 homes and the administrative actions could reduce carbon pollution in an amount equal to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.

The White House chose Wal-Mart because the company has committed to doubling the number of solar energy projects at its stores, Sam's Clubs and distribution centers.

But in choosing the giant retailer as the backdrop for his announcement, Obama triggered a backlash from labor unions and pay equity advocates who say Wal-Mart pays low wages and who archly noted that Obama has made pay equity a central issue of his presidency.

"What numbskull in the White House arranged this?" former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Bill Clinton administration, said in a posting on Facebook on Thursday.

"While he's in California, I would hope President Obama would speak directly to Wal-Mart employees and hear from them about their daily struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table," said Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Wal-Mart says it pays wages that are competitive in the retail industry.

The clashing energy vs. jobs message is not new to the White House. Labor unions, for example, have pressed the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. because it would create jobs. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline, and the administration recently put off a decision on whether to approve it, likely until after the November congressional elections.

Obama was wrapping up a three-day trip mostly devoted to raising money for the Democratic Party.

Complicating things for the White House, Obama on Thursday attended a fundraiser hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who sits on Wal-Mart's board of directors.

In promoting the energy efficiency announcement ahead of Friday's event, the White House said solar energy prices have dropped markedly in four years, with solar panels now costing about 60 percent less.

"All of this means more jobs in the industry, which is now supporting more than 140,000 good-paying American jobs and that are increasing at a rate of 20 percent per year," said Dan Utech, a special assistant to Obama on energy and climate change.

The White House said Obama also would announce completion of energy efficiency standards for walk-in coolers and freezers typically used in grocery stores.

The rule on walk-in freezers was proposed last August under an agreement with attorneys general from 10 states and New York City. The states, along with House and Senate Democrats, have been urging Obama to move faster to implement proposed efficiency standards, including those for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers, which were due in 2012.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

PREVIOUSLY: Obama honored at L.A. gala:

Obama, at Wal-Mart, touts efficiency -- but angers labor groups
President Barack Obama listens to the remarks of movie director Steven Spielberg as he attends the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by Spielberg and planned to spend three days in California where he will raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama, right, gets a hug from movie director Steven Spielberg after Obama was presented with the USC Shoah Foundation Ambassadors for Humanity award as he attends the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by Spielberg and planned to spend three days in California where he will raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
CENTURY CITY, CA - MAY 7: President Barack Obama and Kate Capshaw applaud as Steven Spielberg makes his speech during the Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel on May 7, 2014 in Century City, California. U.S. President Barack Obama received the foundation's highest award for his global efforts to protect human rights, according to the foundation. (Photo by Genaro Molina-Pool/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - MAY 7: Director Steven Spielberg hugs President Barack Obama after presenting him with the Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity, its highest award for his global efforts to protect human rights at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel on May 7, 2014 in Century City, California. The president received the foundation's highest award for his global efforts to protect human rights, according to the foundation. Spielberg is founder of the foundation and a USC trustee. (Photo by Genaro Molina-Pool/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - MAY 7: Bruce Springsteen performs during the Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the Century Plaza Hotel on May 7, 2014 in Century City, California. U.S. President Barack Obama received the foundation's highest award for his global efforts to protect human rights, according to the foundation. (Photo by Genaro Molina-Pool/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - MAY 07: USC Shoah Foundation Honorary Chair Steven Spielberg (L) presents the USC Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity Award to U.S. President Barack Obama onstage at USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 7, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation)
CENTURY CITY, CA - MAY 07: USC Shoah Foundation Honorary Chair Steven Spielberg (L) presents the USC Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity Award to U.S. President Barack Obama onstage at USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 7, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation)
CENTURY CITY, CA - MAY 07: USC Shoah Foundation Honorary Chair Steven Spielberg (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama, recipient of USC Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity Award, pose onstage at USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 7, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Lorne Michaels, Steven Spielberg, and George Clooney attend the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) President of the University of Southern California C. L. Max Nikias, Romeo Dallaire and George Clooney attend the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg attend the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Director Steven Spielberg (R) presents honoree George Clooney with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) A general view of the atmosphere at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Liz Bommarito speaks onstage at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Mary Helen Immordino-Yang speaks onstage at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jon Stewart and George Clooney attend the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award winner George Clooney (C) poses with Steven Spielberg (L) and Jon Stewart at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Steven Spielberg and Judith Sheindlin 'Judge Judy' attend the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) President of the University of Southern California C. L. Max Nikias, actor Jerry Seinfeld, Romeo Dallaire, Jon Stewart and George Clooney attend the USC Shoah Foundation Institute 2013 Ambassadors for Humanity gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 3, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute)
Barbra Streisand listens to President Barack Obama speak at the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Streisand's husband, James Brolin, sits at left. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa listen to President Barack Obama speak at the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Kim Kardashian attends the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Bruce Springsteen performs during the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama, right, walks away after receiving the USC Shoah Foundation Ambassadors for Humanity award from movie director Steven Spielberg, left, during the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by Spielberg and planned to spend days in California where he will raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Actor Liam Neeson, center, listens to President Barack Obama speak at the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Conan O'Brien, right, talks with Samuel L. Jackson, left, as they attend the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama, left, sits next to movie director Steven Spielberg, right, as they listen to Conan O'Brien during the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by Spielberg and is spending three days in California where he plans to raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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