In a speech at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama vowed to cut American oil imports by one-third, setting 2025 as a deadline.
His proposal addresses mounting concerns over Middle East instability, growing gas prices, and dependence on foreign oil.
“The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out,” he said. “We can’t afford it when the cost to our economy, our country, and our planet is so high.”
Outlining his plans, Obama pushed for expanded domestic bio-fuel production, improved conservation, and a switch to alternative energy sources. He proposed to erect bio-fuel refineries within the next two years, and announced a new fuel efficiency standard for heavy-duty trucks to arrive this summer, followed by raised fuel efficiency standards for cars this fall. He additionally proclaimed an initiative to ensure that all federal government vehicle purchases are fuel, hybrid, or electric cars by 2015.
“The only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil,” Obama claimed. “We’re going to have to find ways to boost our efficiency so that we use less oil. We’ve got to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy that also produce less carbon pollution that is threatening our climate. And we have to do it quickly.”
Obama’s next annual budget necessitates $8 billion in research and development spending on new energy sources. Channeling his State of the Union Address, Obama repeated his pledge to augment the percentage of electricity produced from “clean” sources from 40 percent to 80 percent by 2035. Such energy comprises renewable resources like wind, hydroelectric generation, solar and geothermal energy, but also includes nuclear power, and natural gas and coal with carbon capture.
His clean-energy pitch would grant companies incentives to invest in new energy technology and would help the United States compete in global markets. Currently, the nation drags behind China and Germany in investment in clean-energy technology.
Yet, Obama primarily warned against the nation’s oil addiction, stating that the US could not continue consuming a quarter of the world’s oil, while owning only two percent of refineries. Amidst Congress calls for amplified national oil and gas production, he also cautioned against quick fixes, slinging a shot at the Republican “drill, baby, drill” 2008 election slogan.
“Now here’s the thing — we’ve been down this road before,” the president said. “Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaign.”
“Because it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians,” he continued, “they were waving their three-point-plans for two-dollar-a-gallon gas. You remember that: ‘Drill, baby, drill’ and all of that. And none of it would really do anything to solve the problem.”
Despite his war on oil, the president remained stanch in his assertion that nuclear energy, now supplying a fifth of domestic electrical energy, will continue to power America for several more decades.
“It’s important to recognize that nuclear energy doesn’t emit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” he said. “Those of us concerned about climate change know that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question. And I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.”
Obama directed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to undertake a systemic safety review of the 104 reactors operating in the country, easing concerns that arose from Japan’s frightening Fukushima Daiichi plant circumstances.
On Friday, he elaborated upon his initiatives to improve transportation fuel efficiency in his weekly address.
However, political pundits caution that bipartisan bickering may stall Obama’s plans. With 2012 elections slowly approaching, Congressional melees threaten his proposal. Yet, Obama remains optimistic.
“I don’t want to leave this challenge for future presidents. I don’t want to leave it for my children. And I do not want to leave it for yours. Solving it will take time and effort. It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies, and, most importantly, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between – to do our part. But with confidence – in America, in ourselves, and in one another – I know it is a challenge we will solve.