Today, President Obama highlighted his Administration’s focus on a sustained, all-of-the-above approach to developing American energy, which has included doubling renewable electricity generation, increasing oil and gas production on federal lands and waters, and reducing our reliance on foreign oil, most notably through the historic fuel economy standards the President has established, which will nearly double the efficiency of the vehicles we drive and save families $1.7 trillion at the pump. As part of the President’s comprehensive strategy for a secure energy future, he will outline the steps his Administration is taking to promote the development of necessary infrastructure and accelerate the pace of innovation of clean and cost-effective alternatives to traditional fuels.
Developing Infrastructure to Support an Economy Built to Last. Fulfilling a commitment the President made in his State of the Union Address and building on a series of recommendations from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness on March 22, the President will travel to Cushing, Oklahoma to announce a new Executive Order on Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects, which will require agencies to make faster permitting and review decisions for vital infrastructure projects while protecting the health and vitality of local communities and the environment. Specifically, the EO will direct agencies to, by the end of April, identify regionally and nationally significant infrastructure projects that will be tracked on the Federal Infrastructure Dashboard so that Federal permitting and review schedules and progress for these important projects are available online. Because many permitting and review decisions for significant infrastructure projects involve multiple Federal agencies, the Executive Order sets up a Steering Committee chaired by the Office of Management and Budget’s Chief Performance Officer and composed of relevant Federal agencies and directs it to develop a Federal government-wide plan by the end of May that includes clear deliverables and timelines for reducing the amount of time it takes to make permitting and review decisions. This Federal Plan will institutionalize permitting and review improvements like conducting permitting analyses and reviews concurrently rather than sequentially to eliminate duplication; enhancing coordination with State, local, and tribal governments; engaging early with stakeholders; and using information technology to replace outdated paperwork. The Executive Order will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes the Federal government to make permitting and review decisions for infrastructure projects such as roads and surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, and pipelines.
As part of this effort to develop American infrastructure, the President will also issue a specific Memorandum in Cushing directing federal agencies to expedite the Cushing Pipeline and other pipelines that relieve bottlenecks as the top priority of the new EO’s permitting process. The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries. Expanding and modernizing our nation’s crude oil and refined products pipeline infrastructure is a vital part of a sustained strategy to continue to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and enhance our nation’s energy security. As part of the Obama Administration’s broader efforts to improve the performance of Federal permitting and review processes, it is critical that we make pipeline infrastructure a top priority. At the same time, we need to do so in a way that protects our natural resources and addresses the concerns of local communities. In expediting agencies’ decisions, the goal must be to execute Federal permitting and review processes with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring the health, safety, and security of communities and the environment while supporting projects that can contribute to economic growth and a secure energy future. This Presidential Memorandum builds on a strong record of accomplishment. Over the past three years, there have been more than 27,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines permitted. This has accompanied a growth in oil and gas production during each year of this Administration.
Investing in Clean Energy Innovation and Jobs. Later in the day, the President will travel to Ohio State University (OSU), which is home to cutting-edge, clean-energy research and hands-on training to prepare the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. In Columbus, the President will highlight the investments his Administration has made on breakthrough research – like the two OSU research teams sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) – and the collaborations between the University and the Energy Department on training programs for jobs in the advanced vehicle, solar, and nuclear industries. In addition, the President will introduce new and continuing efforts to support his all-out, all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, including:
- Supporting smaller, safer, cleaner, and cheaper next-generation nuclear reactors. The Energy Department will invest $450 million over five years to support the design, first-of-a-kind engineering, and licensing of U.S. small modular reactors. Manufacturing these reactors domestically will offer the United States important export opportunities and will advance our competitive edge in the global clean energy race. Small modular reactors, approximately one-third the size of current nuclear plants, have compact designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, siting, construction and economic benefits. Specifically, they could be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The small size also makes SMRs ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, providing utilities with the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.
- Developing a smarter grid where consumers have more control over their energy bills. The Obama Administration will announce that the utility industry is taking new steps to help consumers and businesses save on their utility bills, by making it easier for electricity customers to get secure online access to their own energy data in a consumer- and computer-friendly format, called “Green Button.” Armed with their own data, homeowners and building owners will have more opportunities and choices to use a growing array of online services that help manage energy use and save on their bills. The new commitments to adopt Green Button by 9 utilities, joining 6 previously announced commitments, will ensure that 27 million households in total will be able to access their own energy information with a simple click of a button. These tools and products promise to provide helpful tips to consumers to save on energy bills, make it easier for homeowners to optimize and finance solar panels, and provide building owners with virtual energy audits to facilitate faster retrofits.
- Funding breakthroughs on advanced biofuels to make them more cost-competitive. The Departments of Agriculture and Energy will announce up to $35 million over three years to support research and development in advanced biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products. The projects funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products that can help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles and diversify our energy portfolio. The Administration’s investments in advanced biofuels are part of an all-of-the-above strategy to cut America’s oil imports, develop clean alternative energy technologies, and help protect American families and businesses from the ups and downs of the global oil market.
- Building vehicles with materials that are stronger and lighter – and use less fuel. The Energy Department will announce up to $14.2 million in federal funds to accelerate the development and deployment of stronger, lighter weight materials. These materials for advanced vehicles will help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, save drivers money, and limit carbon pollution. Projects will include developing modeling tools for delivering higher performing carbon fiber composites and advanced steels, as well as researching new lightweight, high-strength alloys for energy-efficient vehicle and truck engines. Advanced materials are essential for boosting the fuel economy of modern automobiles, while maintaining safety and performance. Replacing cast iron and traditional steel components with lightweight materials – including advanced high-strength steel, magnesium, aluminum, and polymer composites - enables manufacturers to include additional safety devices, integrated electronic systems and emissions control equipment without increasing the weight of a vehicle. Using lighter materials also reduces a vehicle’s fuel consumption. For example, reducing a vehicle’s weight by 10 percent can improve the fuel economy by 6 to 8 percent.