Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

What Will Obama’s Proposed $2 Billion Do For Climate Change?

Not much at all. That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s way less than we’ve already spent.

President Obama has announced that he’s ready to bring to fruition some of the plans for a post-oil future he discussed at February’s State of the Union. Speaking from the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, the president said he wants to take $2 billion in revenue, earned from leasing out public land to oil drilling, and channel it toward researching clean technologies that could eventually lead to more widespread use of energy-free vehicles.

And while it’s a sad reality that the only money we can find in our budget to move beyond oil comes from capitalizing on it, according to a White House release, the $2 billion would form a new "Energy Security Trust," which would "provide a reliable stream of funding for critical, breakthrough research focused on developing cost-effective transportation alternatives," including electric vehicles but also, more work on biofuels, fuel cells, and natural gas.

"The private sector on its own won’t invest in this research because it’s too expensive, it’s too risky, they can’t afford it. So we’ve got to support it, and we’ll all benefit from it."

While $2 billion may (sort of) sound liked a lot, the figure speaks to how narrow the room is to take action on climate change in today’s political climate. In 2009, Obama’s stimulus package included $90 billion for clean-energy research—money which has already been spent, according to the New York Times. Small, $2 billion steps that rely on existing revenue are what fighting climate change will look like in Obama’s second term.

Ironically, sequestration has already hurt funding at Argonne, the lab where Obama made the announcement. According to the lab’s director Eric D. Isaacs, the budget cuts which went into effect on March 1st mean the lab will abort all new programs for the next two years.

So, in a way, this $2 billion is just filling in the gaps.