Gov. Pat Quinn emphasized the importance of alternative fuel research in securing Illinois’ position as a leader in industry during a stop at Argonne National Laboratory Wednesday.
During the visit, Quinn toured energy labs in which researchers are developing battery technology for electric cars, as well as fuel tanks that can accommodate as many as four different types of fuel, including biofuels and traditional gasoline.
“Anyone who sees $4 or $5 a gallon gas I think is all for it,” he said.
Researchers at Argonne developed technology used in the battery for the 2011 Chevy Volt. The Volt is an electric hybrid car that can run for up to 35 miles exclusively on battery power before switching to gasoline, according to Chevy.
Argonne Director Eric Isaacs highlighted Illinois’ unique position as a hub of both research and industry because labs such as Argonne and the large companies that depend on its research, such as Caterpillar, both call the state home.
“Here at Argonne we try to bring together all the components and try to help create that ecosystem [for research and development],” he said. “We try to bring together the scientists and engineers as well as the companies.”
Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois Tollway, also spoke of her department's three-year research partnership with Argonne, which will focus on issues such as fuel economy and vehicle idling.
The teams will collaborate to find efficiencies in both roadways and vehicles. For example, the tollway spends $1.5 million a year on fuel for its own fleet of vehicles, Lafleur said.
"A 1 percent savings in those fuel costs would be real money for us," she said. "Small reductions can translate to ongoing savings for us."
Mirroring democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s message during a February visit to Argonne, Quinn said that investment in innovation is also key to maintaining America’s position as a global business leader. Argonne is a member of Illinois’ newly formed Innovation Council, which held its first meeting in March.
Quinn cautioned that failing to invest in alternative fuel research would have a domino effect on U.S. industry.
“We don’t want some foreign potentate having a stranglehold on America because of oil supplies,” he said. “We don’t want someone who doesn’t respect democracy trying to kick us around. We’re going to prevail because good old fashioned American ingenuity and science applied to the marketplace makes a great deal of difference for all of our lives today and tomorrow.”
He criticized a spending bill passed in the House earlier this year that would have slashed funding for a key energy efficiency program that supports significant parts of Argonne’s research.
Congress instead voted last week for a compromise 2011 budget that preserves much of Argonne’s funding.
The visit was another stop on Quinn’s Earth Week tour of sites that are promoting energy efficiency and alternative fuels. Tuesday he visited an Oak Park Walgreens powered by geothermal energy.