Obama advocates alternative energy during $2 billion energy trust pitch in Illinois

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

(Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET)

President Barack Obama argued in a speech in Illinois on Friday that investing $2 billion over the next 10 years to research alternative energy sources and technologies is the most effective way to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

Having all cars and trucks run on electricity and domestic fuels instead of gas is "the only way to break that cycle for good," Obama told an audience at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill. He stressed what he referred to as a bipartisan desire to "free our families and our business from painful spikes in gas once and for all," drawing applause from the crowd.

He claimed that "by the middle of the next decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas" due to greater fuel efficiency.

The idea behind the energy trust, which Obama first announced during his State of the Union address on Feb. 13, was based on proposals released by Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan group made up of CEOs and military veterans seeking to combat the country's dependence on foreign oil.

In addition to reducing dependence on foreign oil, Obama made his case for the trust on Friday by claiming that investing in scientific research will help the economy and jobs, as well as the environment.

The White House chose Argonne as the site for the speech because of its prominent scientific achievements, including its development of fuel-efficient car technologies and a longer-lasting lithium-ion battery.

Obama also said on Friday that those type of advancements help Americans "maintain our edge" in a global marketplace. But that edge, he argued, is now threatened by the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, which he said will force Argonne to "stop any new project coming down the line."

The president noted of the cuts, "They don’t trim the fat; they cut into muscle and bone."

But he also attempted to make light of the situation, joking at the start of his speech that he didn't realize the audience standing before him had seats. I thought "you had to get rid of chairs" here due to the sequester, he told them.

As for how the $2 billion trust would be funded, the White House on Friday proposed using royalties generated from offshore oil and gas production.