Obama reiterates plan to use oil revenue for alternative energy R&D

Technological breakthroughs in the last few years have significantly improved the US energy situation, but more needs to be done, US President Barack Obama said on Mar. 15. He specifically called for creation of an Energy Security Trust to develop and deploy transportation alternatives that would be funded by federal crude oil leasing revenue.

“This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. This is just a smart idea,” the president said in an address at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill. “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 [gasoline prices] once and for all. Let’s do that. We can do it. We’ve done it before.”

He acknowledged, as he did in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, that the idea came from Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), which is committed to protecting US national and economic security by combating domestic dependence on oil for transportation fuels (OGJ Online Feb. 13, 2012).

“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,” Obama said.

“In the meantime, we’ll keep moving on the all-of-the-above energy strategy that we’ve been working on for the last couple years, where we're producing more oil and gas here at home but we're also producing more biofuels, we're also producing more fuel-efficient vehicles, more solar power, [and] more wind power,” he continued.

Industry reactions

Responses from oil and gas association officials varied. Erik Milito, group director for upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute, said Obama’s idea missed a significant opportunity.

“Eighty-three percent of federal lands and waters are still off limits to oil and natural gas development,” Milito observed. “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.”

Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell said he was encouraged by the president’s including natural gas among transportation alternatives to oil. “We have more than 100 years supply of this clean-burning, job-creating, consumer-helping fuel,” he noted.

Russell also applauded the president’s promise to accelerate federal energy permit application processing, but added that his remarks missed two other crucial elements. “States have begged to be a partner with the federal government in their energy future, to be allowed to explore their offshore resources, but the Obama administration has been slow to help,” he said.

“IPAA also urges the administration to open up the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for development, which is expected to have a great deal of resources,” Russell said. “If the president wants to garner more federal revenue, opening up federal lands and waters is the best way to do so.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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