Last week, President Obama delivered a major speech on energy policy at Georgetown University and announced the release of the White House’s new “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.”
In terms of promoting clean energy innovation through research and development (R&D), the contents of the White House report are included below. President Obama defended these investments in his speech by noting:
So a clean energy standard will help drive private investment in innovation. But I want to make this point: Government funding will still be critical. Over the past two years, the historic investments my administration has made in clean and renewable energy research and technology have helped private sector companies grow and hire hundreds of thousands of new workers.
I’ve visited gleaming new solar arrays that are among the largest in the world. I’ve tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line. I mean, I didn’t really test it — I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop. (Laughter.) I’ve toured factories that used to be shuttered, where they’re now building advanced wind blades that are as long as 747s, and they’re building the towers that support them. And I’ve seen the scientists that are searching for the next big breakthrough in energy. None of this would have happened without government support.
I understand we’ve got a tight fiscal situation, so it’s fair to ask how do we pay for government’s investment in energy. And as we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we’re going to have to make some tough choices. We’re going to have to cut what we don’t need to invest in what we do need.
Unfortunately, some folks want to cut critical investments in clean energy. They want to cut our research and development into new technologies. They’re shortchanging the resources necessary even to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs; it would terminate scientists and engineers; it would end fellowships for researchers, some who may be here at Georgetown, graduate students and other talent that we desperately need to get into this area in the 21st century. That doesn’t make sense.
We’re already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump, every time we lose a job or a business to countries that are investing more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet that you will inherit -– we’re already paying a price. These are costs that we are already bearing. And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.
So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil. That’s not a game plan to win the future. That’s a vision to keep us mired in the past. I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America. We are not going to do that.
Here is the full energy R&D section of the “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future”:
INNOVATE OUR WAY TO A CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE
Win the Future Through Clean Energy Research and Development
Innovation – the process by which individuals and organizations generate new ideas and put them into practice – is a foundation of American economic growth and competitiveness. Economic growth in advanced economies like the United States is driven by the creation of new and better ways of producing goods and services, a process that triggers new and productive investments.
Innovation has long been a cornerstone of our economic growth and the United States has led the world in creating new products and services. But we are in danger of losing our historic lead. There are signs across a range of innovation metrics – including growth in corporate and government R&D, the number of scientific and technical degrees and workers, access to venture capital and the creation of new businesses – that show our nation has fallen behind in global innovation competitiveness.
That is why the Administration has taken historic efforts to reignite American ingenuity and innovation through investments in research and development, especially in the area of clean energy. These important investments are helping to develop cutting-edge technologies with real world applications that can tackle our nation’s toughest energy challenges, address global climate change and advance a clean energy economy. In turn, these investments are also creating new jobs and industries and promoting U.S. competitiveness. The President believes that targeted and sustained investments in clean energy research and development that can jumpstart private sector innovation are critical to our long term economic growth, energy security, and international competitiveness.
Progress to Date
Spurring Innovation through Investments in Clean Energy Research and Development: Through the Recovery Act, the Administration has invested in thousands of projects across the country targeted at the demonstration of clean energy projects in every state. We invested over $4 billion to modernize the electricity grid, $2 billion in advanced battery manufacturing, $1 billion in research of new energy technologies for renewable energy and energy efficiency, $800 million in advanced biofuels projects, and over $3 billion in clean coal projects. Each of these projects has created jobs and saved energy or added new energy to the economy, all while propelling US innovation in energy technology. The FY 2012 Budget continues this effort: compared to 2010, the Budget will more than double our investment in energy efficiency technology, increase our investments in renewable technology by over 70%, and continue key investments in the smart grid, nuclear energy (including small modular reactors), and clean coal technologies.
Investing in DOE’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): The Obama Administration funded ARPA-E for the first time ever with $400 million as part of the Recovery Act. This funding is being used to support over 100 projects, including technologies for plug-in vehicles that cost no more to own and operate than conventional vehicles, batteries that convert wind power into a steady power source, and microorganisms that produce liquid biofuels from sunlight and carbon dioxide. ARPA-E focuses on transformational energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support, the success of which would provide dramatic benefits for the nation. The program is designed to bring freshness, excitement, and urgency to energy research in breakthrough technologies, attracting many of the nation’s best and brightest minds—from experienced scientists and engineers to young students and researchers to entrepreneurs.
Syncing R&D Investments and Clean Energy Technology Deployment: The clean energy R&D priorities that will be supported through the President’s Budget, including increased emphasis on solar, geothermal, offshore wind, and advanced biofuels, complement policies that are focused on the deployment of these technologies. For example, the SunShot initiative includes research to reduce dramatically the cost of solar modules, as well as partnerships with State and local governments to streamline permitting regulations. Together, these advances could reduce the total installed cost of solar electricity by about 75 percent – which in most parts of the country would make solar power cost-competitive without subsidies. Similarly, investments in vehicle R&D will be complemented by improvements to the electric vehicle tax incentive, as well as a new $200 million “Race to the Top” competitive grant program to encourage communities to improve readiness to adopt electric vehicle technology.
Bringing Together the Best Minds to Advance Critical Energy Research and Development: Innovation and breakthroughs often happen when scientists and thinkers from different disciplines collaborate. Our Energy Innovation Hubs bring together the best minds in universities, Federal laboratories, and private companies to focus on the hardest problems in clean energy. Currently, we have three Hubs in place and they aim to do extraordinary things, including converting sunlight directly into fuels more efficiently than plants, discovering new technologies that can make buildings smarter and more efficient, and designing the next generation of nuclear power equipment that safer and less expensive to build and operate.
Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies to Help Support Clean Energy: The President’s FY 2012 Budget eliminates $46 billion in tax subsidies for fossil fuel production. In his State of the Union, the President proposed using these funds to support clean energy innovation.
Expanding ARPA-E to Catalyze Energy Breakthroughs: The President’s FY 2012 Budget invests $650 million in ARPA-E. This will allow ARPA-E to continue the promising early-stage research projects that aim to deliver game-changing clean energy technologies by providing enough funds to more than double the portfolio of projects funded through this important program.
Doubling the Number of Energy Innovation Hubs to Focus on Key Energy Challenges: The FY 2012 Budget doubles the number of Energy Innovation Hubs, creating three more Hubs across the country. These new Hubs will bring together top scientists to work in teams on new approaches for tapping our vast renewable energy resources in cross-disciplinary research related to: critical materials, including rare earth elements; batteries and energy storage; and the development of new Smart Grid technologies and systems to improve energy transmission efficiency.
Supporting Applied R&D that Supports Innovative Manufacturing and Technology Deployment: The President’s FY 2012 Budget supports efforts to decrease the costs of solar energy, tap the enormous offshore wind resources along America’s coastlines, including the Great Lakes, expand geothermal energy, and increase industrial efficiency in the U.S. manufacturing sector. The Budget includes funds to improve advanced manufacturing for materials technology related to energy, such as flexible electronics for lighting, batteries, and solar cells. The Budget also supports critical materials for electric vehicles and wind turbines – to better identify supply sources, reduce material requirements, and design devices that use alternative materials.
Deploying Smart Grid Technologies: Smart grid technologies hold the potential to enhance the market penetration of intermittent renewable energy sources and sophisticated systems for reducing the energy requirements to heat, cool and power homes and offices. The Administration is pursuing collaborative efforts in the U.S., Europe, and Asia to accelerate deployment of smart grid technologies.
Ensuring Access to the Critical Minerals Needed for Clean Energy: Many new and emerging clean energy technologies, such as the components of wind turbines and electric vehicles, depend on critical materials with unique properties, such as rare earth elements. The availability of a number of these materials is at risk due to their location, vulnerability to supply disruptions and lack of suitable substitutes. The President’s FY 2012 Budget supports a DOE Innovation Hub to pursue R&D in all aspects of critical minerals, including environmentally safe and responsible extraction, mineral recycling and reuse. To complement these R&D efforts, the administration is pursuing complementary efforts to evaluate the domestic development and use of critical materials at all stages of the supply chain.