Obama wants to create an Energy Security Trust with $2 billion for R&D [Updated]
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President Obama is scheduled to deliver the first energy speech of his second term today. He's expected to seek the creation of an Energy Security Trust that would primarily focus on R&D aimed at finding ways of speeding up progress on lowering the cost of vehicles that run on electricity, biofuels, natural gas or other non-oil fuel sources. The war-chest would be rather modest, at only 2 billion dollars over the next decade (so $200m a year), but in these though fiscal times, that's better than nothing, and at least the financing would come from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in Federal waters (so basically, fossil fuels would be funding research into their replacement).
Hopefully once the energy R&D trust is created (if it is created - there could be opposition to it in congress), increases in its budget can be considered if promising opportunities to spend more on energy R&D productively can be found. After all, big breakthroughs can pay for themselves if they help us save a lot of costly energy and avoid damaging pollution.
But that's not all. President Obama likes to call his energy approach "all of the above", and so he's expected to mention a bit of everything in this speech; from a goal of doubling renewable energy generation by 2020, to faster permitting for all kinds of energy projects (renewable, but also oil & gas), to cutting oil imports by half over the next decade, converting part of the country's truck fleet to natural gas, investments in energy efficiency, more loan guarantees for nuclear, etc. Basically, all that is missing is the kitchen sink.
He's also expected to push G20 countries to phase out "inefficient fossil fuel subsidies", which would be an excellent idea, though I'll believe it when I see it. These subsidies - direct and indirect - have been around for so long and so hard to get rid of, including because voters react to increases in energy prices but don't seem to realize that the taxes they pay are an indirect way to pay for that same energy when it is subsidized, that they'll be hard to kill.
It would also be nice if he did something about the country's dependence on coal, but that doesn't seem to be on the agenda.
If you want to watch the speech, it is scheduled for 2:30 PM today according to the White House schedule.
Update: Here's a graphic produced by the White house:
White House/Public Domain
You can get the full size PDF here.
Update 2: The transcript of Obama's speech is now available.