On March 30, the Obama Administration released a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future aimed at reducing the amount of oil imported from around the world, strengthening the nation’s reliance on alternative fuels and energy efficiency technologies and growing the economy with an infusion of new clean energy jobs.
In an address delivered at Georgetown University, Obama said that the nation’s energy security has been a pressing topic addressed by every president since Richard Nixon. He noted that energy independence was important now more than ever as gasoline prices rise precipitously across the country nearing $4 a gallon. And, he said, prices will continue to rise in the long term as countries like India and China grow rapidly and the demand for energy outpaces the supply of oil as two billion more people begin consuming more goods, driving more cars and using more energy.
“In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody ? Businesses see it hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tanks. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder,” Obama said during the speech. “The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out. Not anymore. Not when the cost to our economy, our country and our planet is so high.”
Obama said there are no quick fixes to the impending oil supply problem, and that while drilling for more oil domestically can help and will be pursued in the short term, a more permanent solution must include a longer-term and multifaceted approach. The Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future calls for reducing foreign oil imports by 2025 to two-thirds of the 11 million barrels presently imported per day.
“Meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency,” said Obama.
According to the blueprint, new sources of energy abound and provide more options than ever before to move away from dependence on foreign oil. The first alternative Obama mentioned was natural gas, which he said is an opportunity waiting to be explored more fully thanks to recent innovations that will allow large reserves to be tapped from shale. Part of the blueprint includes collaboration between the Department of Energy and other agencies, the natural gas industry, states and environmental experts to fully realize the nation’s natural gas potential without compromising safety and environmental quality.
“The potential here is enormous,” said Obama. Additionally, “it’s actually an area of broad bipartisan agreement. Last year, more than 150 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle proposed legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil.
“Another substitute for oil that holds tremendous promise is renewable biofuels not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass, wood chips and biomass,” stated Obama.
He went on to highlight how the potential for biofuels is being successfully explored in Brazil, where more than half of the country’s vehicles already run on biofuels. In addition, he noted recent developments in the www.airforce.com” target=”_blank”>U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy to incorporate advanced biofuels into their energy futures. Part of the Administration’s blueprint calls for partnerships between the Departments of Defense, Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to continue developing advanced biofuels that will power not just fighter jets but also grow the market potential of biofuels to incorporate new uses for commercial trucks and airliners.
In addition to natural gas and biofuels development, the Administration’s blueprint outlines major improvements for fuel efficiency standards. Obama highlighted new national fuel efficiency standards established in 2010 for cars and trucks that are expected to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. However, he also noted that higher standards will be enforced this summer as the first-ever fuel efficiency standards are implemented for heavy-duty trucks and another round of higher standards are introduced for cars in the fall.
However, a major focus of the blueprint and of the Administration’s prior energy policy is a concerted push for large-scale development of electric vehicles and their supporting infrastructure.
“There are few breakthroughs as promising for increasing fuel efficiency and reducing our dependence on oil as electric vehicles,” said Obama. “Soon after I took office, I set a goal to have one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. We’ve created incentives for American companies to develop these vehicles and for Americans who want to buy them.”
Obama highlighted the efforts already undertaken by his Administration, noting that new manufacturing plans are opening over the next few years, $2 billion dollars of competitive grants have been invested for the research and development of next generation batteries and a broad array of incentives for both individuals and communities are being implemented to pave the way for electric vehicle adoption.
He said industry growth as the electric vehicle market expands will create new employment opportunities in manufacturing as well as in domestic electricity production. He also highlighted initiatives to move electricity production to cleaner and more renewable sources. In line with the Administration’s Clean Energy Standard for America, announced during Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address, the new blueprint calls for 80 percent of domestic electricity production to shift by 2035 to an array of clean energy sources, including renewables like wind and solar, efficient natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power.
Obama said transitioning to alternative fuel vehicle technologies would require a jumpstart to expand the market initially and that the federal government and partnerships with businesses would be the driving force.
“To achieve our oil goal, the federal government will lead by example,” explained Obama. “The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country. That’s why we’ve already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet, and that’s why I am directing agencies to purchase 100 percent alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles by 2015. And going forward, we’ll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets.”
The partnership between the government and private industry is being called the Clean Fleets Partnership and includes companies like UPS, FedEx, AT&T, Verizon and PepsiCo firms with some of the largest vehicle fleets in the country.
Obama said the partnership is driven by business necessity rather than by the government because more and more companies feel it is best to switch to electric and alternative vehicles, “not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it’s good for their bottom lines.”
In close partnership with industry and fleet-dependent businesses, the Administration recognizes that doing nothing to tackle the growing scarcity of oil is not an option.
“We are already paying a price for our inaction,” explained Obama. “Every time we fill up at the pump; every time we lose a job or a business to countries that invest more than we do in clean energy; when it comes to our air, our water and the climate change that threatens the planet we are already paying that price. These are the costs we’re already bearing. And if we do nothing, that price will only go up.”