June 10, 2010 / 3:06 PM / 10 years ago

Obama to meet Bill Gates, GE's Immelt on energy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will meet at the White House on Thursday with business leaders including Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp, and Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE, who are urging Washington to triple research spending into clean energy.

U.S. President Barack Obama enters the Diplomatic Room of the White House to speak about the U.N. Security Council vote to impose sanctions against Iran in Washington June 9, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The business leaders formed the American Energy Innovation Council to urge the United States to triple the research funding into clean energy like biofuels and car batteries to $16 billion per year.

“If you want to have the highest possibility of reducing oil dependence you would fund an aggressive research and development program,” Gates told reporters ahead of the meeting with Obama.

Ursula Burns, chairwoman of Xerox Corp, Cummins Inc Chairman Tim Solso, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers will also be at the meeting with Obama. They will also meet congressional leaders.

“Americans spend more money per year on potato chips than they do on clean energy research,” Doerr said.

As Obama grapples with the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he is also pushing Congress to pass a new law that would fight climate change and ramp up production of renewable fuels.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate because lawmakers in oil and coal states oppose it. Senate leader Harry Reid wants a bill moved to the Senate floor in coming weeks but time is growing short as lawmakers turn their attention to congressional elections in November.

The business group was not endorsing any specific energy legislation, but wants the government to eventually put a price on emitting greenhouse gases and create an independent national board to coordinate energy strategy.

“The status quo is a losing hand,” GE’s Immelt said about the lack of a U.S. energy plan. He said China and other countries will be glad to lead on clean energy if the United States does not.

Also attending will be Jason Grumet of the Bipartisan Policy Center, an adviser to Obama during his presidential campaign, and Hal Harvey of the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Timothy Gardner, editing by Mohammad Zargham

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