Monday, March 18, 2013

President Calls For New Clean Energy Security Trust

Mar 15: On Friday afternoon, President Obama delivered a speech at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, connecting the dots between the American economy, jobs and energy policy. He said, "I'm here today to talk about what should be our top priority as a nation, and that's reigniting the true engine of America's economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class and an economy built on innovation. . . So I chose Argonne National Lab because right now, few areas hold more promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy. . ." He continued:
"After years of talking about it, we're finally poised to take control of our energy future. We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We've doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar -- with tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it. We're producing more natural gas than we ever have before -- with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it.  We supported the first new nuclear power plant in America since the 1970s. And we're sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years. . .
"So think about this: 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. . .
"We can't afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races forward. We have to seize these opportunities.  I want the next great job-creating breakthroughs -- whether it's in energy or nanotechnology or bioengineering -- I want those breakthroughs to be right here in the United States of America, creating American jobs and maintaining our technological lead. . .
"So we're making progress, but the only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices, the only way to break that cycle for good is to shift our cars entirely -- our cars and trucks -- off oil. That's why, in my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to set up an Energy Security Trust to fund research into new technologies that will help us reach that goal. Now, I'd like to take credit for this idea because it's a good idea, but I can't. Basically, my proposal builds off a proposal that was put forward by a non-partisan coalition that includes retired generals and admirals and leading CEOs.  And these leaders came together around a simple idea -- much of our energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So what they've proposed is let's take some of our oil and gas revenues from public lands and put it towards research that will benefit the public so we can support American ingenuity without adding a dime to our deficit.
"So these leaders all say we need to fix this.  This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. This is just a smart idea. And we should be taking their advice. Let's set up an Energy Security Trust that helps us free our families and our businesses from painful spikes in gas once and for all. Let's do that.  We can do it. We've done it before. . ."
        The White House released a fact sheet on what it called, "President Obama's Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future." The fact sheet indicates that the Obama Administration is calling on Congress to establish a new Energy Security Trust, which is designed to invest in breakthrough research that will make the technologies of the future cheaper and better -- technologies that will protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.
    The proposal would set aside $2 billion over 10 years and will support research into a range of cost-effective technologies -- like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, fuel cells, and domestically produced natural gas. 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 Administration says the Trust is paid for within the context of the overall budget.
    The fact sheet indicates that, "President Obama is committed to an 'all-of-the-above' approach that develops all American energy sources in a safe and responsible way and builds a clean and secure energy future." The President's Plan: Challenges Americans to double renewable electricity generation again by 2020; Directs the Interior Department to make energy project permitting more robust; Commits to safer production and cleaner electricity from natural gas; and supports a responsible nuclear waste strategy. The Plan also sets a goal to "cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade" and commits to partnering with the private sector to "adopt natural gas and other alternative fuels in the Nation's trucking fleet."
    Additionally, the Plan establishes a new goal to double American energy productivity by 2030 including a "Energy Efficiency Race to the Top challenge"; Challenges States to Cut Energy Waste and Support Energy Efficiency and Modernize the Grid; Commits to build on the success of existing partnerships with the public and private sector to use energy wisely; and, Calls for sustained investments in technologies that promote maximum productivity of energy use and reduce waste.
    Finally, the Plan includes an international agenda that: Leads efforts through the Clean Energy Ministerial and other fora to promote energy efficiency and the development and deployment of clean energy; Works through the G20 and other fora toward the global phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies; Promotes safe and responsible oil and natural gas development; Updates our international capabilities to strengthen energy security; and Supports American nuclear exports.
    The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) both commented. Rep. Smith said, "The President wants more money to fund more pet projects, but it is clear that his administration has not been responsible with the taxpayer dollars that have already been spent.  As we have seen time and again, much of this spending is duplicative and wasteful. We need to better prioritize federal spending. Federal dollars should be focused on research and development, not picking winners and losers, which is a role better left to the private sector." 

    Rep. Lummis said, "As Chairman of the Energy Subcommittee and co-chair of the Congressional Western Caucus, I have long advocated for unleashing the energy potential of the American West.  A recent report by the Institute for Energy research found that opening new areas on and offshore to energy production could yield the Federal government an additional $24 billion annually and help supply Americans with abundant and affordable domestic energy.  It is extremely disappointing that the President's proposal—which clearly recognizes the revenue potential of these vast resources—does not intend to open up any new lands to expanded production." 

    The American Petroleum Institute (API) Group Director for Upstream & Industry Operations Erik Milito issued a brief comment saying, "Eighty-three percent of federal lands and waters are still off limits to oil and natural gas development. By failing to unlock new areas for energy production, the president's plan misses a golden opportunity to create jobs and generate billions of dollars in government revenue."
    Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, issued a statement on the Plan saying, "Today, President Obama proposed a robust and compelling plan for furthering research into technologies that will help break our nation's dangerous dependence on oil. In addition to helping the U.S. lead the way on clean technology, these investments will also create new jobs, lower energy costs, and reduce the amount of dangerous carbon pollution that is wreaking havoc on our climate. "While we applaud the President for proposing new investments in clean transportation innovations such as advanced battery technology for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells and alternative fuels, we urge him to focus on these clean technologies rather than fossil fuel options like natural gas vehicles. If the President is truly serious about moving beyond fossil fuels and fighting the climate crisis, natural gas is not the answer. The Sierra Club strongly opposes opening up new land to destructive drilling and fracking, as has been proposed in Illinois. The President should instead go all in on electric vehicles and clean energy sources like wind and solar, while boosting common sense climate solutions like energy efficiency."
    Environment America issued a release calling the President's Plan a "dirty plan for clean energy." They said, "President Obama's proposal promises to save the United States from its dependence on oil by deepening its dependence on oil. Today's plan fails to directly confront the key question on oil and transportation policy: Are we building a future in which we use more oil, or are we building a future in which we use less? Instead of promoting policies that trap us in a catch-22, President Obama should reject more drilling, reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and find sustainable sources of funding for clean energy research."   
    Access the full text of the President's Argonne speech (click here). Access the complete fact sheet with further details on all of the above items (click here). Access a release from the Republican leaders on the House Science Committee (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from Environment America (click here). [#Energy]
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