In a speech at the Argonne National Laboratory, President Obama proposed a new Energy Security Trust Fund to invest in research into post-petroleum transportation technologies, including electric vehicles. The plan sets aside $2 billion over 10 years from royalty revenues paid to the federal government by oil and gas producers. The government collects more than $6 billion a year in royalties from production on federal lands and waters.
“This idea…is not just about saving money. It’s also about saving the environment… but also about national security. This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, it’s just a smart idea,” said President Obama.
The current proposal was inspired by a report called A National Strategy For Energy Security, which was issued by the non-partisan organization Securing America’s Energy Future. According to the report, “Oil dependence is one of the greatest threats to US national security. While market forces will surely take the country forward, the global oil market suffers from numerous market failures, [which] creates an unavoidable role for government policy.”
At the national lab, the president took a tour of the facilities, including a thermal test chamber where vehicle components can be subjected to extreme temperatures, and spoke with engineers working on EV batteries. In his speech, he emphasized the important role of research into new technologies in keeping the US economy competitive:
Just a few years ago, the American auto industry was flat-lining. Today, thanks in part to discoveries made right here at Argonne, some of the most high-tech, fuel-efficient, pretty spiffy cars in the world are once again designed, engineered and built here in the United States.
And that’s why we have to keep investing in scientific research. It’s why we have to maintain our edge – because the work you’re doing today will end up in the products that we make and sell tomorrow. You’re helping to secure our energy future. And if we do it well, then that’s going to help us avoid some of the perils of climate change and leave a healthier planet for our kids.
I want the next great job-creating breakthroughs…to be right here in the United States of America, creating American jobs and maintaining our technological lead.
We can support scientists who are designing new engines that are more energy efficient; support scientists that are developing cheaper batteries that can go farther on a single charge; support scientists and engineers that are devising new ways to fuel our cars and trucks with new sources of clean energy – like advanced biofuels and natural gas – so drivers can one day go coast to coast without using a drop of oil.
Creation of the Energy Security Trust Fund would require congressional approval, but there are signs that an agreement may be possible. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the senior Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, has called it “an idea I may agree with.”
However, the president’s proposal does not expand drilling to federal lands or water where it is now prohibited, and some say that expanded drilling may be the price of Republican support. “For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically,” said a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Video and a transcript of President Obama’s speech can be found here.
Image: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Sources: Detroit News, Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, Securing America’s Energy Future