March 16, 2013

Obama: Oil funds could wean U.S. off oil use

The president proposes a $2 billion trust to pay for research into renewable sources of energy.

Tribune Washington Bureau

CHICAGO - President Obama returned to Chicago on Friday to push an energy policy aimed at weaning the country off oil by using revenues from increased oil and gas production.

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President Obama speaks Friday at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., where he urged Congress to authorize $200 million a year for research into clean energy.

The Associated Press

In a roughly 20-minute speech at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama touched on research into batteries, natural gas, wind, solar and nuclear power that he deemed vital to America having a long-term healthy economy and environment.

As part of his administration's overall plan, Obama also formally introduced a proposal to establish a $2 billion trust from royalties the government receives from offshore drilling. Over 10 years, that money would be used to support energy research into alternatives to gasoline, he said.

Administration officials have said they expect revenue in support of clean fuels research to flow from greater oil and gas drilling, part of Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, but which critics assert amounts to conflicting goals.

"We have to maintain our edge," Obama said. "Few areas hold more promise for creating more jobs ... than how we use American energy."

Obama said energy policy is also a consumer concern.

"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," Obama said.

Obama also used the occasion to touch on the so-called sequestration budget cuts, warning that the research he was spotlighting was at risk of being shortchanged to the detriment of the country.

"We can't afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races forward," Obama said.

Under the sequester, Argonne could lose about $30 million to $35 million from its roughly $800 million operating budget, said Mark Peters, deputy laboratory director of programs.

The role of the trust, which will be in the president's budget proposal, would be to support cutting-edge research into fuels that would eventually replace gasoline, a prospect that the officials conceded was years away. They added that no new territory would be added to federal lands already set aside for energy development.

Revenue channeled to the trust would be on top of revenue already expected from federal lands, and would not take money out of other government coffers to put to this project, they said.


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