Barack Obama highlights American ingenuity for increased energy safety

In a speech delivered at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. on 30th March 2011, Barack Obama said that “American ingenuity, American know-how” could lead the nation towards a future where energy security would not be compromised by turmoil in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. The American president outlined the measures included in the US energy policy for the coming years.

Etats-Unis United statesBarack Obama had made energy security one of the themes of his presidential campaign in 2008. But the financial crisis, the rise in unemployment and the drop in the price of petrol somewhat changed the order of priorities. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Fukushima incident, the Georgetown speech marked the re-emergence of the old campaign theme as a core issue.

Barack Obama mentioned that the United States controls just 2% of the world’s oil reserves, but consumes about 25% of the oil produced worldwide. To reduce this gap, which would be very difficult to sustain in the long term, he talked about a plan to increase primary energy reserves and diversify energy sources through increasing oil reserves; developing nuclear power, deepwater and shale gas drilling, while taking extra precautions; investing in renewable biofuels (wood chips, biomass, etc.). But energy efficiency was a focal point of Barack Obama’s speech.

Towards more efficient means of transport

Transport represents 70% of petrol consumption and is the second largest expense in the average budget of an American household. The President expects to see positive results from the national fuel efficiency standard introduced in 2010, which aims to produce more fuel-efficient cars.

Furthermore, federal agencies have been instructed to equip their fleets with alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015. As for consumers, they will benefit from incentives. Although the production of electric cars remains limited in the United States due to a lack of batteries, Barack Obama said, “Pretty soon, America will be home to 40 percent of the global manufacturing capacity for these advanced batteries.“ In addition to these measures, the President wishes to increase investments in urban public transport networks and high-speed links between towns and cities.

Green building for increased energy efficiency

Barack Obama also talked about the need to reduce the wasting of energy in homes and businesses, which consume 40% of the energy used across America, costing several billion dollars in energy bills annually. And yet, he said, “The nice thing about energy efficiency is that we already have the technology. We don’t have to create something new.” He thus announced incentive programmes to encourage the widespread use of highly energy-efficient building materials (new lighting, new windows, new heating and cooling systems). These investments, he said, “Will save consumers and business owners tens of billions of dollars a year, free up money for investment and hiring, and create jobs for workers and contractors.” There will be financial incentives to encourage homeowners to invest in improvements that will allow them to save money on electricity bills.

Double the use of renewable energies

Although two-fifths of American electricity already comes from clean or renewable energy sources (solar and wind power, natural gas), Barack Obama reiterated his objective to double this and reach about 80% by 2035. He stressed that the United States had somewhat fallen behind in this area. In 1980, 80% of wind power and 90% of solar power was produced in the United States. Today, China is the biggest producer of wind power and Germany is the world leader for solar energy.

Barack Obama therefore urges Americans to make efforts for the long term: “It’s a task we won’t be finished with by the end of my presidency, or even by the end of the next presidency. But if we continue the work that we’ve already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations — we will leave your generation and future generations with a country that is safer, that is healthier, and that’s more prosperous.”

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