Obama revives green energy sales pitch

President Obama will revive his green energy sales pitch Friday with a proposal to divert offshore oil-and-gas revenues to fund research into alternative fuel and vehicle technologies.

The president will highlight the plan during a visit to a clean-energy research lab in Chicago, arguing the investment is vital to reduce dependence on foreign oil and spur high-tech jobs for the United States.

But the proposal, which requires congressional action and would be funded over a 10-year period, faces a tough slog on Capitol Hill. 

Republicans would likely demand the administration expand offshore oil-and-gas drilling as a condition for their support. Doing so is a key component of the House Republican budget released Tuesday, which included increased federal revenues from more fossil fuel production.

But the president has no intention of doing that, White House officials said in a Thursday media call.

Obama will make his pitch for the research fund at the Chicago-area Argonne National Laboratory, a facility that has been at the forefront of alternative vehicle technology.


It follows on his announcement of a $2 billion “Energy Security Trust” in his State of the Union address last month. 

White House officials framed the trust as a way to wean the U.S. off oil and to reduce carbon emissions.

They said the security trust is a major part of the president’s economic strategy of boosting high-tech manufacturing and innovation. 


And they argued the fund would provide a pool of money for basic research traditionally underfunded by the private sector that could produce significant breakthroughs.

Obama also will likely champion the impact biofuel-, natural gas- and electricity-powered cars would have on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with recent comments on the need to combat climate change.

The security trust concept has attracted bipartisan congressional interest and the backing from military leaders who view alternative fuels as a way to buffer the military from costly oil price spikes, the officials said. 

They added that the White House has reached out to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the committee’s ranking member.

Murkowski has floated a similar plan, though it relies on expanded federal oil-and-gas production.

Still, White House officials said the security trust would not decrease oil-and-gas revenues that go toward the general Treasury.

The $2 billion would instead come from anticipated changes to the oil-and-gas permitting process and projected increases in offshore production from already scheduled leases, they said.

The officials declined to elaborate on the permitting tweaks. They said the changes would reduce administrative costs, and that the savings would go toward the security trust.