What does Obama want? $2 billion for research into technologies that would power Americans’ cars without oil.
When does he want it? Gradually — $200 million a year over a decade.
In a speech on Friday and in his weekly video address on Saturday, the president talked up a proposal for an Energy Security Trust, an idea he first introduced in his State of the Union last month. It would be funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas leases, which oil companies already pay; with offshore drilling on the rise, the White House says there will be more royalty money to tap.
The money will support research on a range of cleaner means of powering vehicles, the White House said, including electricity, biofuels, fuel cells and [domestically] produced natural gas.
The president’s proposal to add $200 million a year to the research budget of the Energy Department’s office of renewable energy would represent about a 10 percent increase in the office’s overall spending, or 25 percent of its spending on transportation research, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Yes, you read right. Some of the money would go toward the development of vehicles that run on natural gas, which is a fossil fuel. And some would go to biofuels, even though there’s been a lot of controversy over whether many biofuels are a net benefit for the climate.
And how did those ever-rational congressional Republicans respond?
After details of Obama’s plan emerged Friday morning, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) voiced skepticism about it and suggested that the administration ought to do more to grow domestic oil and gas production.
“For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically,” said the spokesman, Brendan Buck.
Obama framed his proposal as a way to help insulate Americans from erratic gas prices.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve got a reminder that we have more work to do,” Obama said during his video address. “We went through another spike in gas prices, just like last year, and the year before that. It happens every year. It’s a serious blow to your budget — like getting hit by a new tax right out of your pocket.”
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