Obama pushes US$2 bil. energy research fund
By Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe ,ReutersLEMONT, Illinois/WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama tried to move past partisan fights over U.S. energy policy on Friday with a modest proposal to fund research into cars that run on anything but gasoline.
March 17, 2013, 12:31 am TWN
Obama toured the Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago, known for its research into advanced batteries used in electric cars, then delivered a speech highlighting the need to find more ways to wean vehicles off oil.
The United States has a newfound wealth of oil and natural gas resources made possible by hydraulic fracturing and other drilling advancements, but consumers still face high prices at the pumps because gasoline prices are tied to world markets.
“The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices for good is to shift our car and trucks entirely off oil,” Obama said in Argonne's advanced photon facility, which says it produces the brightest source of X-rays in the Western Hemisphere, used for an array of research projects.
The Democratic president proposed a fund that will draw US$2 billion over 10 years from royalties the government receives from offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.
The research would be aimed at new ways to lower the cost of vehicles that run on electricity, biofuels, natural gas or other non-oil fuel sources.
Obama first mentioned the Energy Security Trust fund in his State of the Union address last month. The White House touted the idea as bipartisan, saying it came from retired military and business leaders, including some Republicans, who belong to a policy group called Securing America's Future Energy.
“This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea,” Obama said, standing in front of three cars designed to run on alternative fuels. “This is just a smart idea.”
But Republican approval was far from assured.
“For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. “Unfortunately, this administration has consistently slowed, delayed, and blocked American energy production.”
By choosing to focus his first energy speech on research — an issue that appeals equally to Republicans and Democrats, industry and environmental groups — Obama is seeking to build common ground on energy, which has been a divisive policy issue.
“In order for something like this to pass the Hill, it will need votes from both sides,” said Michael Levi, an energy fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “That makes it wise for the president to start with something that Congress can work from.”