Obama: Stop hitting snooze button on energy security

By Kris Bevill | March 30, 2011

In a speech delivered at Georgetown University on March 30, U.S. President Barack Obama released his administration’s plan to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil by one-third within the next 14 years. Citing political instability in the Middle East and the ongoing nuclear plant disaster in Japan, Obama acknowledged that the cost and security of energy is an area of particular concern to U.S. citizens. Even more specifically, he commented on the rising price of gasoline, noting the cyclical pattern of gasoline price increases and decreases, and said that while energy security has been a political talking point for 40 years, there is yet to be a long-term strategy to alleviate the concern.

“Here’s the bottom line - there are no quick fixes,” he said. “Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you the truth. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy. We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again.”

The president then unveiled his administration’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” which addresses a wide spectrum of domestic energy sources and energy efficiency measures. Included in the policy plan is a call for increased domestic oil production, both on- and off-shore, but Obama stressed the need to expand the use of other sources of domestic energy, such as natural gas and biofuels. “The only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil,” he said. “We have to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy with less of the carbon pollution that threatens our climate. And we have to do it quickly.”

Obama pointed to Brazil’s widespread use of biofuels as an example of their potential, but emphasized that his energy plan supports “not just ethanol, but biofuels from things like switchgrass, wood chips and biomass.” He said the administration will continue to invest in research and development for next-generation biofuels and will assist in establishing four commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities within two years. He also expressed support for reforming biofuels tax incentives and assisting in expanded infrastructure for corn-based ethanol.

Additionally, Obama announced a plan to propose the first fuel efficiency standard for heavy-duty trucks later this summer and said the next round of fuel efficiency standards for other vehicles will be unveiled in the fall. He is also establishing a new requirement for federal agencies to make their vehicle fleets 100 percent alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles by 2015.

Several programs currently focused on assisting with the very same objectives Obama introduced as part of his energy blueprint are currently at risk of losing funding as Congress attempts to form a long-term budget. Obama urged Congress not to cut funding to these programs and said sacrificing investments in clean energy will weaken the country’s energy security and make it more dependent on foreign oil. “That’s not a game plan to win the future,” he said. “That’s a vision to keep us mired in the past.”

Ethanol industry groups immediately commended the president’s support for domestic biofuels production. Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen said the ethanol industry is ready to reform current biofuels policies to reflect the evolving industry and fiscal concerns. “That means we must think outside the box when it comes to incentivizing the use of ethanol, expanding the market for ethanol and accelerating the commercialization of advanced ethanol technologies,” he said.