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Obama's $2 billion plan to wean US off foreign oil (+video)

During a visit to Argonne National Lab, President Obama proposes using royalties from offshore drilling in federal waters to create an 'Energy Security Trust Fund' to pay for research into battery and clean-fuel technologies.  

By Staff writer / March 15, 2013

President Obama listens to a research engineer explain electric-car technology during a tour of the Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., Friday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


If the Obama administration has its way, $2 billion in new revenue from offshore oil drilling will fund research into how to wean American drivers off imported oil.

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President Obama wants to use $2 billion from federal oil drilling revenues to finance research into batteries for plug-in vehicles and other technologies.

Speaking Friday at Argonne National Laboratory – the high-tech incubator that produced battery breakthroughs for today’s plug-in vehicles – President Obama proposed an “Energy Security Trust Fund” to finance research into batteries for plug-in vehicles and other “breakthrough technologies,” such as hydrogen fuel cells and cleaner biofuels.

The idea, Mr. Obama noted, comes from a group of retired military officers and corporate executives called Securing America's Future Energy or SAFE, and it is not primarily about the economy or the environment but national security.

“The reason so many different people – from the private sector, the public sector, our military – support this idea is because it's not just about saving money, it's also about saving the environment. But it's also about our national security,” Obama said. “This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea; this is just a smart idea, and we should be taking [SAFE’s] advice.”

SAFE’s plan called for a $5 billion trust fund, but with Congress focused mainly on cutting budgets, Obama is offering a slimmed-down version. The White House says the $2 billion fund would not add to the deficit since it would tap royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in federal waters off the Outer Continental Shelf. Those revenues are projected to increase in coming years as drilling expands as part of the administration’s five-year energy plan.

So far, the US has cut foreign oil imports by more than 3.6 million barrels per day during Obama’s presidency, the White House reported. Oil imports have also fallen to a 20-year low, and carbon-pollution emissions are at their lowest level in nearly two decades.

Part of the trend is connected to the drop in economic activity resulting from the recession and slow recovery. But renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has doubled, and Obama wants to double the fuel efficiency of the US auto fleet by 2025. That could reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil imported from OPEC every day, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report released Friday .


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