Obama Budget to Seek Increased Funding For Faster Energy Permitting, Natural Gas

By Ari Natter  

President Obama's upcoming fiscal year 2014 budget request would increase funding for energy programs within the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management by approximately 20 percent and includes a call for millions of dollars in funding for natural gas production and carbon capture and sequestration, the White House said March 15.

A “significant share” of the proposed funding increase for the Bureau of Land Management would be used to improve the permitting process for both renewable and oil and gas projects proposed for federal land, the White House said. It will include a transition to an electronic, streamlined permitting system for oil and gas that will “significantly reduce” the time it takes to approve new drilling projects.

The information was contained in a fact sheet released by the White House in tandem with a speech President Obama made March 15 during a visit to the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory, where the president reiterated his call for Congress to create a $2 billion trust fund for alternative vehicle research supported by federal revenue from existing oil and gas production.

'Safe' Natural Gas Production, Carbon Capture

“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,” Obama said.

In addition, the White House fact sheet said the president's budget will call for more than $40 million in research to ensure “safe and responsible” natural gas production to take advantage of the country's new found abundance of natural gas.

The document also said the president's budget request, which the White House said will be sent to Congress the week of April 8, will include a $375 million spending request for “investment in clean energy from fossil fuels,” including “significant funding” for clean coal technology and a new $25 million prize for the first, natural gas combined-cycle power plant to integrate carbon capture and storage.

The document also said the president was setting a goal of cutting net oil imports in half by the end of the decade, and was “committed” to new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels, including providing a credit for a five-year period for 50 percent of the incremental cost of a dedicated alternative-fuel truck.

New Incentives for Natural Gas Vehicles

The president's budget would also expand applied research and development of “innovative manufacturing processes and advanced industrial materials,” as part of a call for increased investment in technologies that promote energy efficiency, the fact sheet said.

The fact sheet, and Obama's speech about the alternative vehicle trust fund, followed a March 7 meeting between the president and several business executives in both the fossil fuel and clean energy industries (47 DER A-15, 3/11/13).

As outlined in Obama's speech, the trust fund, first mentioned by the president in his State of the Union address, would set aside $2 billion over 10 years from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in federal waters to fund research into advanced vehicles that run on electricity, biofuel, fuel cells, and natural gas.

Republicans Criticize Vehicle Fund Proposal

According to the White House, the trust fund would be paid for “within in the context of the overall budget,” but the concept has already been criticized by House Republicans who want the president to expand oil and gas production on federal land and on the Outer Continental Shelf.

“It is extremely disappointing that the President's proposal--which clearly recognizes the revenue potential of these vast resources--does not intend to open up any new lands to expanded production,” Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who chairs the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Energy, said in a March 15 statement.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the full committee, also criticized the president's proposal, saying $2 billion in “new spending for green energy programs is not the answer.”

By Ari Natter  

The White House fact sheet is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=smiy-95tnez.