Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory Friday.
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.The spending proposal comes under the administration's Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future. Two years ago this month, the White House released another blueprint with almost the same name, except it left out the word "clean." The blueprint includes considerable attention paid to truly clean technologies, but also continues funding for "clean coal," something environmental advocates view as an oxymoron.
And the reason so many different people from the private sector, the public sector, our military support this idea is because it’s not just about saving money; it’s also about saving the environment, but it’s also about our national security.
Using revenue derived from fossil fuels extracted from public lands to invest in projects that help wean America off fossil fuels may have internal contradictions, but the concept has a certain positive resonance. Indeed, any additional effort directed at getting the nation off fossil fuels is welcome, and President Obama has outpaced every president—including Jimmy Carter, who got the ball rolling 35 years ago—in his commitment, oratorical and financial, to supporting renewable energy research, development and commercialization.
But the president's speech came on the same day that media sources say the White House may rewrite its proposal to regulate greenhouse gases, which, if true, means yet another delay on that score. The juxtaposition with the Energy Security Trust whipsaws eco-advocates once again with the two-steps forward, one-step backward approach the administration has engaged in with its energy and climate change policies.
That a mere $2 billion over a decade is being proposed is a testament, once again, to the myopia of a Congress hamstrung by an obstructionist Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The gridlock has put a desperately needed comprehensive energy plan out of reach. In fact, that's something the U.S. hasn't had since the Carter administration. So we're stuck with baby steps like this one.
Please read below the fold for more about Obama's speech and excerpts from the White House's fact sheet on the Blueprint for a Clean and Energy Secure Future.
Ironically, the Argonne National Lab, where the last presidential speech was given in 1992 by George H.W. Bush, faces about a five percent cut in funding as a consequence of the federal budget sequester. That could mean, if the trust is approved, that some of its money could wind up funding existing projects that would otherwise fall under the budget ax.
Even $2 billion a year instead of the paltry $200 million the plan would provide isn't nearly enough. During his 2008 campaign, Obama proposed $15 billion a year for such research and related endeavors. Thanks in part to the stimulus bill passed in early 2009, about $90 billion has gone into a wide array green-energy programs since he became president. That includes: $29 billion for improving energy efficiency, including home retrofits; $21 billion in incentives for renewable generation of electricity; $18 billion for high-speed rail and upgrades of other rail; $10 billion to modernize the electric grid; $6 billion for advanced vehicles and batteries; $3 billion for research into carbon sequestration; and $3 billion for job training. Now almost all the stimulus money has been spent although incentives for renewable electricity generation is continuing.
Congress would have to establish the Energy Security Trust. Its dollars would come not from the taxpayers but rather from added royalties expected as a consequence of increased off-shore drilling for oil and gas. That extra drilling will be a consequence of a streamlined permitting process, which is part of the White House's all-of-the-above energy initiatives, which is highly criticized by environmental advocates for its promotion of fossil fuels. The trust's money would fund work at government laboratories, universities and private companies, an approach not unlike that of the Department of Energy's E-Advanced Research Projects Agency, E-ARPA. The president alluded to the trust idea in his inaugural address in January.
The Energy Security Trust is something Congress might actually go for. Coral Davenport reports:
The idea is the brainchild of the small Washington think tank Securing America’s Energy Future, which published a report in December recommending the creation of the trust fund—although the SAFE proposal recommends funding the research through revenues generated by new, rather than existing offshore drilling. SAFE’s board of directors is headed by Fred Smith, the former Republican senator and former CEO of FedEx Corp., and retired Marine Corps General P.X. Kelley—the pair mentioned in Obama’s speech.In addition to the Energy Security Trust, the Blueprint for a Clean and Energy Secure Future includes (from the White House "fact sheet":
On Dec. 3, the same day SAFE published the report, the group’s CEO, Robbie Diamond, met with both White House senior energy adviser Heather Zichal, and with the staff of Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee. Both the Democratic White House and the GOP senator liked the idea—and have since met to talk about moving it through Congress.
• Challenges Americans to double renewable electricity generation again by 2020. In order to double generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020, relative to 2012 levels, the President called on Congress to make the renewable energy Production Tax Credit permanent and refundable, which will provide incentive and certainty for investments in new clean energy. Instead of continuing century-old subsidies to oil companies, the President believes that we need to invest in the energy of the future. During the President’s first term, clean energy tax incentives attracted billions of dollars in private investment in almost 50,000 clean energy projects, creating tens of thousands of jobs. Permanent extension keeps the momentum building, while creating new jobs in clean energy.
• Directs the Interior Department to make energy project permitting more robust. Last year, the President set a goal to permit 10,000 megawatts of renewables on public lands – a goal the Interior Department achieved. But there is more work to do. That is why the Department is continuing to take steps to enable responsible development of American energy on public lands. In support of this work, the President’s Budget will increase funding for energy programs of the Bureau of Land Management by roughly 20 percent. A significant share of these resources will support better permitting processes for oil and gas, renewable energy, and infrastructure, including the transition to an electronic, streamlined system for oil and gas permits that will significantly reduce the time for approval of new drilling projects. The Department will also propose more diligent development of oil and gas leases through shorter primary lease terms, stricter enforcement of lease terms, and monetary incentives to get leases into production.
• Commits to safer production and cleaner electricity from natural gas. Our domestic natural gas resources are reducing energy costs across the economy – for manufacturers investing in new facilities and families benefiting from lower heating costs. This abundant, nearly 100-year resource can support new jobs and growth, but there are steps we should take to make this growth safe and responsible. The President’s budget will invest more than $40 million in research to ensure safe and responsible natural gas production. And as part of a $375 million investment in cleaner energy from fossil fuels, the President’s budget includes significant funding for clean coal technology and a new $25 million prize for the first, natural gas combined cycle power plant to integrate carbon capture and storage.
• Supports a responsible nuclear waste strategy. Under President Obama’s direction, the Energy Department created a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to recommend how to manage the challenges associated with nuclear waste storage and disposal. After careful consideration of the Commission’s input, the Administration has issued a strategy for action in response to the recommendations and looks forward to working with Congress on implementing policies that ensure that our Nation can continue to rely on carbon-free nuclear power.
Investing in Energy Security
During the President’s first term, the United States cut foreign oil imports by more than 3.6 million barrels per day, more than under any other President. To ensure that we continue on a path towards greater energy security, the President’s plan:
• Sets a goal to cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade. Increased production of domestic oil, natural gas, and biofuels, and improvements in the fuel economy of our cars and trucks allowed the United States to cut imports of oil by almost one-third since 2008. To build on this progress, the President will direct new policies and investments to set us on a course to cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade, relative to 2008 levels.
• Commits to partnering with the private sector to adopt natural gas and other alternative fuels in the Nation’s trucking fleet. Private sector investments are building natural gas fueling infrastructure across the United States just as natural gas vehicle research is making the technology more economically and environmentally effective. The President is committed to accelerating the growth of this domestically abundant fuel and other alternative fuels in the transportation sector in a way that benefits our planet, our economy, and our energy security: putting in place new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels, providing a credit for 50 percent of the incremental cost of a dedicated alternative-fuel truck for a five-year period; supporting research to ensure the safe and responsible use of natural gas; and funding to support a select number of deployment communities: real-world laboratories that leverage limited federal resources to develop different models to deploy advanced vehicles at scale.
Making Energy Go Farther Across the Economy
Cutting the amount of energy we waste in our cars and trucks, in our homes, buildings, and in our factories, will make us a stronger, more resilient, and more competitive economy. Improvements in energy efficiency are critical to building a clean and secure energy future. To advance this priority, the President’s plan:
• Establishes a new goal to double American energy productivity by 2030. The President has set a goal to cut our economy’s energy waste in half over the next twenty years. More specifically, the Administration will take action aimed at doubling the economic output per unit of energy consumed in the United States by 2030, relative to 2010 levels. This includes a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top challenge; building on the success of existing partnerships with the public and private sectors to promote energy efficiency; and continuing investments in technologies that improve energy productivity and cut waste.
• Challenges States to Cut Energy Waste and Support Energy Efficiency and Modernize the Grid. Modeled after a successful Administration approach in education reform designed to promote forward-leaning policies at the State-level, the Budget includes $200 million in one-time funding for Race to the Top performance based awards to support State governments that implement effective policies to cut energy waste and modernize the grid. Key opportunities for States include: modernizing utility regulations to encourage cost-effective investments in efficiency like combined heat and power, clean distributed generation, and demand response resources; enhancing customer access to data; investments that improve the reliability, security and resilience of the grid; and enhancing the sharing of information regarding grid conditions.
• Commits to build on the success of existing partnerships with the public and private sector to use energy wisely. Over the next four years, the President is committed to accelerating progress on energy productivity including through the Better Buildings Challenge, improving energy data access for consumers through the "Green Button" initiative, and making appliances even more efficient - saving consumers money, spurring innovation, and strengthening domestic manufacturing.
• Calls for sustained investments in technologies that promote maximum productivity of energy use and reduce waste. The President’s Budget expands applied research and development of innovative manufacturing processes and advanced industrial materials. These innovations will enable U.S. companies to cut manufacturing costs, enhance the productivity of their investments and workforce, and reduce the life-cycle energy consumption of technologies, while improving product quality and accelerating product development.
The Administration has worked not only to strengthen our energy security at home, but also around the world. In concert with our domestic actions, we have pursued a robust 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. Our efforts have helped to accelerate the global dissemination of energy-efficient equipment and appliances through the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative, improved energy savings in commercial building and industry through the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP), and supported the large-scale deployment of renewable energy through the 21st Century Power Partnership.
• Works through the G20 and other fora toward the global phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Inefficient subsidies exact a steep toll on our economies, our energy security, and our environment, and the United States is leading efforts internationally to accelerate progress in eliminating them.
• Promotes safe and responsible oil and natural gas development. The Administration has worked to promote safe and responsible oil and natural gas production through initiatives like the Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative, which provides technical and capacity building assistance to countries that are on the verge of becoming the world’s next generation of oil and gas producers, and the Unconventional Gas Technological Engagement Program, which works to help countries with unconventional natural gas resources to identify and develop them safely and economically and can support switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.
• Updates our international capabilities to strengthen energy security. We are working with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others to ensure that our international institutions and processes reflect changes in global energy markets.
• Supports American nuclear exports. We are providing increased support for American nuclear technology and supply chains to promote safe, secure, low-carbon nuclear power growth in countries that are pursuing nuclear energy as part of their energy mix.