Pipeline activists were planning to protest outside the Argonne laboratory during Obama's visit.
The Democratic president is proposing a fund that will draw $2 billion over 10 years from royalties the government receives from offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.
Green groups want him to push for new regulations on coal fired power plants. They also are urging him to reject the Keystone pipeline in a final decision due later this year.
White House officials said the president's plan would not add to the deficit because they expect leasing revenues to grow in coming years for several reasons, including changes the administration plans to make to leasing policy.
The White House on Friday called the research fund a common sense proposal developed by retired military and business leaders, including some Republicans.
In his second term, Obama has earned plaudits from environmental groups for making climate change a top priority. He warned lawmakers he would look for ways to take action, if they don't.
UPDATED: 3/15/13 10:16 pm ET
"This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea," Obama said, standing in front of three cars designed to run on alternative fuels. "This is just a smart idea."
In his first term, Obama pushed for laws that would use market forces to reduce climate changing carbon pollution, but the "cap and trade" bill was opposed by industry and failed in Congress.
Republican lawmakers have so far been lukewarm to the idea.
Obama first mentioned the Energy Security Trust fund in his State of the Union Jordan Hats Uk address last month, pitching it as a way to "free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we've New York Yankees Hat
A Murkowski spokesman said the president's plan relied on royalties that have already been factored into the budget.
"The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices for good is to shift our car and trucks entirely off oil," Obama said in Argonne's advanced photon facility, which says it produces the brightest source of X rays in the Western Hemisphere, used for an array of research projects.
Republicans excoriated his administration for that failure, as well as for delaying approval of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline from Canada.
"There's no reason Republicans in Congress can't work with the president to get this done," White House spokesman Josh Adidas Cap Green
"It squirrels away a set of resources that even in a difficult budgetary environment, will give researchers in the private sector certainty," a White House official said before Obama's trip.
But some projects failed, including a California solar panel maker called Solyndra that had received $527 million in a government loan.
a divisive policy issue.
The research would be aimed at new ways to lower the cost of vehicles that run on electricity, biofuels, natural gas or other non oil fuel sources.
"The inevitable result is either deficit spending or the goring of someone's proverbial ox, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund," said Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon.
By choosing to focus his first energy speech on research an issue that appeals equally to Republicans and Democrats, industry and environmental groups Obama is seeking to build common ground on energy, which has been Nike Cap Boys
2 billion in research on cleaner vehicles
CHICAGO (Reuters) President Barack Obama tried to turn the page on bitterly partisan fights over energy policy on Friday, focusing the first energy speech of his second term on a modest proposal to fund research into cars that run on anything but gasoline.
"For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner. "Unfortunately, this administration has consistently slowed, delayed, and blocked American energy production."
The research trust fund will require consent from Congress, which is grappling with federal budget cuts. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, had proposed a similar idea. But her version called for expanded drilling, which Obama's proposal does not include.
The United States has a newfound wealth of oil and natural gas resources made possible by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and other drilling advancements, but consumers still face high prices at the pumps because gasoline prices are tied to world markets.
His administration pumped $90 billion in economic stimulus funds into clean energy and "green jobs" projects, helping to dramatically expand renewable energy production in America.
Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama.
put up with for far too long."
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