Obama defends green energy push after budget cuts

ARGONNE, Illinois (AFP) - United States (US) President Barack Obama defended green energy research spending on Friday, two weeks after budget cuts kicked in, warning that those reductions would leave America trailing its global rivals.

In a speech that sought to develop his plan to spend US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion) in the next decade on an energy security program, Mr Obama said such an outlay was needed to ensure jobs and argued that the ongoing cuts could only harm the country.

"And one of the reasons I was opposed to these cuts is because they don't distinguish between wasteful programmes and vital investments," Mr Obama said at the Argonne National Laboratory, a science and engineering research centre.

"They don't trim the fat; they cut into muscle and into bone, like research and development being done right here," he added, at the centre located near Chicago.

The budget sequester that began this month - because the White House and Congress failed to agree a compromise on spending and taxes - means "we're looking at two years where we don't start new research," Mr Obama said.

"Imagine what that means when China and Germany and Japan are all continuing to plump up their basic research and we're just sitting there doing nothing," he added.

The latest impasse between the White House and Capitol Hill resulted in the imposition of a US$85 billion austerity drive affecting all government departments, which started on March 1, threatening US growth.

Mr Obama last month called on Congress to do more to combat climate change and he plans to introduce further efficiency standards for cars and renew a push on the development of wind, solar and cleaner natural gas energy.

His proposed reforms face a tough ride in Congress, however, as Republican lawmakers have heavily criticised government spending on green energy programs during Mr Obama's first term, arguing that the outcomes did not justify the cost.

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