Following up on an idea raised in his State of the Union address in January, President Obama on Friday proposed that the U.S. spend $2 billion in federal revenues from oil and gas leases in the next 10 years on a wide range of research and development initiatives aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on petroleum for transportation.
The administration has been a big backer of electric vehicles, and the Energy Security Trust that the president is now calling on Congress to establish would pour money into R&D on advanced batteries for EVs – but it would also support work on using natural gas, biofuels and hydrogen fuels cells for transportation. The president on Friday traveled to the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago to promote the idea.
Some of his usual allies probably won’t like the inclusion of natural gas in the mix, but it should come as no surprise. He is, after all, an all-of-the-above energy guy, as the White House consistently states. Plus, one year ago, the president went to a Daimler plant in North Carolina to push for a billion-dollar investment in alternative vehicles, including those powered by natural gas.
Still, one of the first emails to arrive in our Inbox weighing in on the Energy Security Trust came from the progressive group Public Citizen, which called the plan “myopic” and said “linking modest investments in energy alternatives to oil and gas production creates a misguided incentive for more oil and gas drilling.”
Today’s proposal appears to rework the president’s earlier initiative, while attempting to package it in a way that might not be anathema to the deficit hawks circling the Capitol. According to a fact sheet released by the White House Friday morning:
The mandatory funds would be set aside from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in Federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), already included in the administration’s five year plan. These revenues are projected to increase over the next several years based on a combination of leasing, production, and price trends, with additional revenues potentially generated as a result of reforms being proposed in the FY 2014 Budget. The Trust is paid for within the context of the overall budget.
The president’s alternative energy efforts have largely met stiff resistance from Republicans, but there could be a small opening on this proposal, if the GOP is to be taken at its word: many conservatives and the business community have acknowledged a research and development role for the federal government. Even Mitt Romey, in his campaign last year, supported “government funding … focused on research and development of new energy technologies and on initial demonstration projects that establish the feasibility of discoveries.”
That’s exactly the kind of thing the president is saying he wants to put money behind. In a Friday morning blog post, the White House wrote:
The investments will support research into a range of technologies – things like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, and domestically produced natural gas. It will also help fund a small number of real-world experiments that try different transportation techniques in cities and towns around the country using advanced vehicles at scale.
And here’s an infographic released by the White House to explain the proposal: