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Gulf oil spill: Experts weigh in on the nation’s oil addiction

June 15, 2010 |  8:56 pm

In his Oval Office speech President Obama urged Americans to "seize control of our own destiny" and break the nation's oil addiction. He suggested several approaches he'd consider, but otherwise went light on specifics.

Here, several energy and environmental experts weigh in on what Obama should do to achieve that goal:

Michael Shellenberger, president, Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think tank:

"America will not significantly reduce its consumption or production of oil until there are alternatives — whether new biofuels or electric cars — that can compete with oil in terms of performance and price. Unfortunately, climate and energy legislation promoted by the president would increase funding for R&D and demonstration by just $2.2 to $4.2 — a fraction of the $25 to $30 billion per year experts agree is needed to achieve the technological breakthroughs needed to make clean energy cheap and scalable.

"Last week Bill Gates and other high-tech leaders spoke out for increasing energy innovation funding. The president and Congress should follow their lead in pushing for a serious increase in energy innovation funding, not cap and trade's business-as-usual."

Mark Muro, policy director, Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution:

"The president has only begun to invoke the spill as an object lesson on the unsustainability of the carbon economy. He should do that now.... A portion of future offshore drilling lease revenue should be reserved for clean energy R&D (as the Republicans proposed two years ago). But also -- How about setting up a new fund capitalized with spill penalty money to support innovation investments? How about taxing oil imports to fund the same?

"A direct link needs to be made via taxes and penalties between the negative spillovers of the carbon economy and the positive spillovers of clean energy research and technology breakthroughs."

Patrick Creighton, spokesman, Institute for Energy Research, a free-market think tank:

 "This is nothing more than the same failed energy policy we've had on the books for far too long in this country--produce less oil at home and import more from abroad. Add a gas tax and cap-and-trade on top of that, and that's what the president stated in his address to the nation.

"The United States has over a trillion barrels of oil shale out West. Billions of barrels of untapped oil in Alaska. And more coal and natural gas than we know what to do with. An effective energy policy would treat these home-grown, job-creating energy resources as an asset, not a liability."

--Jim Tankersley, reporting from Washington