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Obama: Argonne research crucial

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Mark Busch – mbusch@shawmedia.com)
President Barack Obama greets Argonne's Center for Transportation Research Director Ann Schlenker after she introduced him Friday at at Argonne National Laboratory.

ARGONNE – President Barack Obama stood in front of three cars that run on battery power, saying that one day, research being done at Argonne National Laboratory near Darien could help Americans travel farther than ever at a more affordable price.

However, the sequester cuts may affect alternative fuel research.

Obama told reporters gathered Friday at Argonne that one of the reasons he is against the sequester is because it doesn’t distinguish between wasteful programs and needed investments, such as the funding to continue some of the work and research at Argonne.

Located just outside Darien and Lemont, Argonne National Laboratory is one of the U.S. Energy Department’s largest national laboratories for scientific and engineering research. In December, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, headquartered at Argonne, was chosen to be the new batteries and energy storage hub – representing a $120 million federal investment over the next five years.

Obama stressed the need to continue funding research and finding new ways to use less oil – keeping energy at home and creating new jobs.

“I chose [to come to] Argonne National Lab because right now, few areas hold more promise for creating new jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy,” Obama said.

In researching how to make batteries last longer, the facility plays a major role in the Energy Department’s energy storage program within its Office of Vehicle Technologies, focusing on improving lithium batteries for lighter cars.

“Wouldn’t you want your car battery, your phone battery or any battery for that matter to run longer and more efficiently?” said Karena Chapman, an Argonne scientist from Naperville who works on batteries in the preliminary stage.

Eric Isaacs, Argonne director, told Obama the cuts from the sequester would force him to stop any new project.

But Isaacs said the immediate effects are still uncertain.

“We don’t know yet because the whole government is trying to figure out what the cuts will be, so we’re planning, but we’re hoping for the best,” Isaacs said.

In the meantime, Argonne scientists are coming to work every day and continuing “their great work,” he added.

During his visit, Obama also urged Congress to authorize spending $2 billion over the next decade for research on electric cars and decreasing the need for oil in the U.S.

New energy will not only shrink the nation’s carbon footprint but also boost the economy, Obama said.

“I want the next great job-creating breakthroughs, whether it’s in energy or nanotechnology or bioengineering – I want those breakthroughs to be right here in the United States of America, creating American jobs and maintaining our technological lead,” Obama said.

The last visit by a president to Argonne was when George W. Bush made a trip in 2002, Argonne officials said.

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