I have called for a Manhattan Project effort on the part of the leading economies of the world to tackle the issue of weaning ourselves from fossil fuel dependency. Is $2 billion what I had in mind? No, far from it! But at least it’s a belated start, that is if it gets approved.
The announcement by President Obama came on Friday, the Ides of March while speaking at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. What he proposed was that the $2 billion that the government receives from royalties for offshore oil and gas leases be used to invest in clean energy research. The focus would be on electric vehicles, biofuels, fuel cells and advanced battery technology.
There’s just one small impediment to getting this initiative going. The President requires the approval of Congress. And sure enough the initial response from Republicans is to nix the idea suggesting the focus of the President should be on beefing up domestic oil and gas production, not looking at renewable, green energy ideas.
Choosing to make the announcement at the Argonne has historic significance. This place was founded by Enrico Fermi and other scientists after the December 2, 1942 event in which they created the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, bringing on the dawn of the Atomic Age. A drawing of that first event appears below. The reactor used for this experiment became the centerpiece of the Argonne when the laboratory was established in March 1943. The initial work done by the scientists who founded Argonne not only led to the atomic bomb, but also nuclear energy.
Today the scientists and engineers at Argonne are focusing their research on sustainable, clean energy technology, experimenting with next-generation materials, chemistry and engineering concepts that will yield much needed breakthroughs.
In his remarks, President Obama stated, “The only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices, the only way to break that cycle for good, is to shift our cars entirely — our cars and trucks — off oil……It’s not just about saving money. It’s also about saving the environment.”
I applaud the President for making the commitment to channel money to this important initiative. I just wish it were a lot more because as we continue to burn fossil fuels rather than commit to alternatives we are playing Russian Roulette with the planet.