Now that the sequester is in full swing, President Obama is proposing new sources of funding to finance his clean energy ambitions. The White House is urging Congress to divert $2 billion from oil and gas leases over the next ten years to pay for research into ‘breakthrough technologies,’ like advanced batteries for electric cars. Following the statements Obama made in last month’s State of the Union address, the goal is to begin to wean the county off of fossil fuels and stimulate the economy by investing in cutting-edge technology.
As a part of Obama’s “all-of-the-above energy strategy,” the proposal will follow an increase in oil and gas development, support for renewable energy sources, and loan guarantees for new nuclear energy plants, and research into alternatives to fossil fuels. While the plan to use revenue from oil and gas leases enjoys bipartisan support, the president is likely to encounter resistance from Republicans who will represent the idea as a tax on energy producers. The White House asserts that the “Energy Security Trust” money will come from an increase in drilling revenue from leasing public lands and waters over the next decade, and is not a new form of taxation.
The president has abandoned the idea to push climate change legislation through Congress as well as dismissing a carbon tax as a way to raise money for clean energy technologies. His stimulus 2009 package provided $90 billion for clean energy research, but most of the aid has dwindled and Congress is not expected to approve funds on that scale in the future.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to tour the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago to promote his plan. The Laboratory, which has done groundbreaking research in the fields of vehicle battery technology, was one of the recipients of the 2009 stimulus money. Now with the sequester, the Laboratory’s director, Eric. D. Isaacs, warns that spending cuts could have a devastating impact on the nation’s ability to remain at the cutting edge of scientific discovery. He also observed that the lack of funding could potentially cancel any new research initiatives for the next two years. The White House aims to use revenue from the country’s increase in oil and gas exploration to replace the money lost by mandatory budget cuts.