(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
President Obama has called for Congress to create a clean-energy research fund, pulling $2 billion in royalties from oil and gas leases over 10 years. While he touted the idea as "bipartisan," approval from Republicans appears doubtful.
"The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices for good is to shift our car and trucks entirely off oil," Reuters quoted Obama as saying in his speech at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., on Friday.
Obama proposed a fund that will draw $2 billion over 10 years from royalties the government receives from offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, to find new ways of bringing down the cost of vehicles that run on non-oil fuel sources.
"This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea," said Obama, who first mentioned the Energy Security Trust fund in his State of the Union address. "This is just a smart idea."
The president said America must not fall behind countries that are increasingly investing money in finding ways to cut energy use and explore alternatives to fossil fuels.
"Few areas hold more promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy," Bloomberg quoted Obama as saying. "The private sector on its own won't invest in this research because it's too expensive, it's too risky, they can't afford it," he said. "So we've got to support it, and we'll all benefit from it."
The White House says the idea came from retired military and business leaders, including some Republicans, who belong to a policy group called Securing America's Future Energy.
Republican don't seem convinced about the idea.
"For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically," Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, was quoted as saying. "Unfortunately, this administration has consistently slowed, delayed, and blocked American energy production."
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, has called for expanded drilling instead. Her spokesman Robert Dillon was quoted as saying that Obama's proposal depends on royalties already factored into the budget, and could therefore mean "either deficit spending or less funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund."
"There's a better way that not only funds investment in research, but also addresses our need for affordable and abundant energy," Dillon said, referring to expanded drilling.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration is willing to work with Congress on the research fund plan. "If there are different ideas people want to offer up, we'll certainly have a conversation with them about that," he was quoted as saying.
In his first term, Obama administration allotted about $90 billion to renewables research as part of a major stimulus bill, but some projects failed, including the California solar panel maker Solyndra.
The federal government loaned Solyndra $535 million before watching the company go bankrupt in 2011. Months later, Jonathan Silver stepped down as head of the Energy Department's loan program.
One of Solyndra's largest private investors was Oklahoma billionaire and top-tier Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, a frequent White House visitor.
Using records reported by Opensecrets.org, The Christian Post calculated that bankrupt solar manufacturer spent nearly $1.1 million on Washington lobbying since 2008.