UPDATED (8:30am EST): You’re forgiven if you think all the President does is deal with the budget, since squabbling between the White House and Congress has been much in the news lately. But the presidency is more than that. One other big issue facing the administration is energy.
On Friday afternoon, President Obama will address that at an event at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. He’ll call for $2 billion over 10 years to go to research on improving energy technology such as electric car batteries, biofuels and natural gas-fueled vehicles. The money will come from revenue from federal oil and gas leases on offshore drilling. It’s a bid to use the money oil exploration generates to wean cars off oil.
This latest policy push is an opportunity to look at where things stand with America’s energy situation. Observers point to a number of positive developments on both the supply and demand sides.
“We’re producing more energy and consuming less, which means imports are going down,” says Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. “That improves our national security situation and our economic situation. And for the most part, the fuels are getting cleaner, so it’s good for the environment.”
The administration’s push for green energy breakthroughs is something supporters say could help the environment and create American jobs.
“The United States is falling behind other countries like China in terms of the scale to which it’s deploying renewable energy in the last few years,” says Joanna Lewis, a professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
The Obama administration wants this new research to make America a leader in this technology. Amy Myers Jaffe, a University of California, Davis professor and energy policy expert, is all for that, as long as funds are spent wisely.
“Money is better spent in the area of R&D and fundamental science and not so profitable in supporting existing businesses,” she maintains.
As you’ll remember, one high-profile mishap in the first term was backing for Solyndra, a solar company that went bankrupt.