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Fueling America's economic growth with alternative energy

By President Barack Obama

I'm here to talk about what should be our top priority as a nation, and that's reigniting the true engine of America's economic growth—a rising, thriving middle class and an economy built on innovation.

Right now, few areas hold more promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy.

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. 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.

So we're making real progress across the board. And it's possible, in part, because of labs like the Argonne National Laboratory 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.

So think about this: Just a few years ago, the American auto industry was flat-lining. Today, thanks in part to discoveries made right here at Argonne, some of the most high-tech, fuel-efficient, pretty spiffy cars in the world are once again designed, engineered, and built here in the United States.

And that's why we have to keep investing in scientific research. 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. But to do it, we've got to make sure that we're making the right choices in Washington.

Today, what most Americans feel first when it comes to energy prices—or energy issues—are the prices that they pay at the pump. And over the past while we went through another spike in gas prices. They weren't happy about it. The problem is this happens every year. It happened last year, the year before that. And it's a serious blow to family budgets. It feels like you're getting hit with a new tax coming right out of your pocket. And every time it happens, politicians dust off their three-point plans for $2 gas, but nothing happens, and then we go through the same cycle again.

But here's the thing: Over the past four years, we haven't just talked about it. We've actually started doing something about it. 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. And 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.

So we're making progress, but the only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices, the only way to break that cycle for good is to shift our cars entirely—our cars and trucks—off oil. That's why, in my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to set up an Energy Security Trust to fund research into new technologies that will help us reach that goal.

And in the meantime, we'll keep moving on the all-of-the-above energy strategy that we've been working on for the last couple years, where we're producing more oil and gas here at home but we're also producing more biofuels, we're also producing more fuel-efficient vehicles; more solar power; more wind power.

We can do this. The nature of America's miraculous rise has been our drive, our restless spirit, our willingness to reach out to new horizons, our willingness to take risks, our willingness to innovate. We are not satisfied with how things have been. We're going to try something that maybe we can just imagine it now, but if we work at it, we'll achieve it. That's the nature of America. That's what Argonne National Lab is about.

We don't stand still, we look forward. We invent. We build. We turn new ideas into new industries. We change the way we can live our lives here at home and around the world. That's how we sent a man to the moon. That's how we invented the Internet.

When somebody tells us we can't, we say, yes we can. And I'm telling all of you, I am absolutely confident that America is poised to succeed in the same way as long as we don't lose that spirit of innovation and recognize that we can only do it together. And I'm going to work as hard as I can every single day to make sure that we do.

For the Record is an excerpt of a speech on American energy made by President Barack Obama in March at the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

May/June 2013