The speech was presented at the Argonne site because it was where the improvements in lithium ion batteries that made all the new plug-in hybrids hitting the market possible. Vehicles like the Ford Focus Electric, pictured here.
“So I chose Argonne National Lab because right now, few areas hold more promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy,” President Obama said.
“After years of talking about it, we're finally poised to take control of our energy future. We produce more oil than we have in 15 years,” he continued. “We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We've doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it. We're producing more natural gas than we ever have before – with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it.”
The President then cited the approval of the first new nuclear power plant in 30 years as more evidence of progress in taking charge of our energy choices. The new plant will be built in Georgia, despite concerns about natural disasters like the one that damaged the Fukushima site in Japan during 2011.
A partial meltdown of the reactor core at Three Mile Island in 1979 put a chill on the industry for a very long time. Though its not irrational to still have concerns about the virulent toxicity of the consumed power rods, at least it is much cleaner in atmospheric terms than the coal fired plants that are slowly giving way to the wind, solar or natural gas based generation of power.
“Over the past four years, we haven't just talked about it, we've actually started doing something about it,” Obama stated proudly. “We've worked with the auto companies to put in place the toughest fuel economy standards in our history, and what that means is, by the middle of the next decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. The standards that we set are part of what's driving some of the amazing scientists and engineers who are working here at Argonne Labs.”
Of course some of the speech was political as Obama pointed out how the sequester blindly reduces spending with no rhyme or reason to the process. One of the things that will suffer (so a few hundred thousand people with astronomical incomes can hang on to more of their money – of which they already have plenty) is funding for the research that drives innovation and keeps America a leader in technological advancement.
“That's why we have to keep investing in scientific research,” he intoned. “It's why we have to maintain our edge – because the work you're doing today will end up in the products that we make and sell tomorrow. You're helping to secure our energy future. And if we do it well, then that's going to help us avoid some of the perils of climate change and leave a healthier planet for our kids.”
The first president, George Washington, eschewed political parties, envisioning a despotism evolving out of views colored by ideology. We usually only recognize this in those we term fanatics and zealots, but does such categorization now apply to our two party system.
The greatest change in our political landscape over the last fifty years has been the growth of the independent voting block, varyingly reported to be from 30 to 44 percent of the voting public. Could this be a rejection of the strictly ideological view of everything?
The argument between our two parties is essentially the one that began in the time of Washington – the role, scope and size of the federal government versus the rights, responsibilities and sovereignty of the states.
After 237 years, nothing has been settled and if anything, the disagreement has become more virulent and vitriolic. Devoted party hardliners are so convinced they have not just the right but the righteous point of view, they can’t even consider any other opinion as valid. The result is congressional gridlock and legislators concerned with the welfare of the few instead of the many. People who consider themselves better than others in a country founded on the premise that, “All men (let’s add women, too) are created equal.” (Would it not follow from this that all points of view have some value?)
Such folks may then call you unpatriotic simply because you fail to recognize their elitism.
“They don't trim the fat; they cut into muscle and into bone – like research and development being done right here that not only gives a great place for young researchers to come and ply their trade, but also ends up creating all kinds of spinoffs that create good jobs and good wages,” Obama stated, regarding the cuts resulting from the sequester.
Four years ago the American auto industry was flatlining – today America is building some of the most efficient, innovative and technologically advanced vehicles in the world. That is a direct result of the effort to take charge of our energy usage.
“So we're making real progress across the board and it's possible,“ he continued, “because of labs like this and outstanding scientists like so many of you, entrepreneurs, innovators – all of you who are working together to take your discoveries and turn them into a business.”
Though he would like to take credit, Obama admitted this policy was not an original idea of his own. The recommendation come from an organization called Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), headed by FedEx Corp. Chairman and CEO, Frederick W. Smith and retired Marine Corps Gen. P.X. Kelley. The group Obama characterized as, “a non-partisan coalition that includes retired generals and admirals and leading CEOs,” considers reducing US oil dependence to be imperative to the country’s continued wellbeing.
Obama was given a tour of the facility by two of the leading researchers, Dr. Isaacs and Dr. Crabtree. During the speech, Obama quoted Dr. Issacs as stating: "This sudden halt on new starts will freeze American science in place while the rest of the world races forward, and it will knock a generation of young scientists off their stride, ultimately costing billions of dollars in missed future opportunities."
Many of the super-rich simply move out of the country to avoid paying more taxes to the system and nation that enabled their success. Maybe the rest should follow suit, allowing those of us remaining to take of the party glasses and look for the common good.
It’s a ridiculous idea, I know, but not so long ago, so was the notion a metal bird could fly through the air.
This page is updated on April 12, 2013.