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Advanced Research Projects Energy (ARPA-E) Act Proposed in Senate and House

Bills that would create a new program within the US Department of Energy to be focused on leading the way to reducing dependence on petroleum have been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Advanced Research Projects Energy (ARPA-E) program is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA), the source for much of the work that led to the Internet.

Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced S. 2196 (Advanced Research Projects Energy Act (ARPA-E) Act) in the Senate last week. Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN) had introduced H.R. 4435 (along with 25 co-sponsors) in December 2005.

The ARPA-E program office, with an authorized funding level of $9 billion for fiscal years 2007 to 2011, would take on high-risk, high pay-off research to move advanced energy technologies into the marketplace.

In the House bill, the agency is chartered explicitly to reduce the amount of energy the United States imports from foreign sources by 20% over the next 10 years.

A report from The National Academy of Sciences recommends the creation of such a new agency to sponsor “creative, out-of-the-box, transformational, generic energy research in those areas where industry by itself cannot or will not undertake such sponsorship, where risks and pay-offs are high.”

Such an organization would be able to accelerate the process by which research is transformed to address energy-related economic, environmental, and security issues to decrease dependence on foreign energy through targeted research and technology development.

The agency would itself perform no research or transitional effort but would fund such work conducted by universities, startups, established firms, and others.




Does anyone know specifically what "advanced energy technologies" they're talking about. I skimmed though the Act and it doesn't give any examples. It looks like it's pretty wide open.


Pretty wide open is probably the right move right now. There are a lot of different options, and it isn't the case that we must have only one solution. Several smaller solutions that all contribute enough would do the trick too.


What a goldmine. Better get those proposals together now. High risk, high payoff - the beauty is that there is no risk at all in submitting a proposal. I could think of a few high-risk ideas. A couple of million dollars might be just enough for me to explore them.


Sweden has set a plan in motion to be fossil fuel free by 2020.
They have established milestones/goals to help ensure success.
Why not just go "Swedish".


Without mandated goals, technology will not get us where we need to be. While new technology would be helpful, this needs to be combined with specific goals. We need to set goals based on available and near available technology. New technology should be icing on the cake to help us meet or exceed our goals.

The new agency can not meet its mandate without explicit goals set by congress that provide specific incentives that will result in changes in consumer behavior.

This is just a way for these legislators to avoid making the difficult political decisions that need to be made.

tom deplume

The problem with 'going swedish' is the much higher population density of the US as well as a much more divesified climate. The US can get off of fossil fuels but only through a complex set of technologies and efficiency improvements.


As 't' mentions, everything needs goals to move ahead. If ARPA-E just leaves it open for others to organise themselves and develop technologies in their own lose schedules then things will move very slowly.
It is also the perfect excuse for government to say "We can't be blamed for our continual state of oil dependence. The public had all the time and money in the world to develop an alternate solution for us"

Perfect example is the open source movement for desktop replacement. The free world vs evil Microsoft so to speak. Open source still hasn't replaced MS Office in any great capacity amost a decade after the whole movement started.

The great innovations will still come from the major automobile manufacturers, and other energy privates that have a project manager breathing down their backs every step of the way.


If you ask me, congress has no business talking about which types of energy research ought to be pursued, since they have no technical background. Those decisions should be made by the director and program managers, just like they're planning.
And to Adrian, you're right that the great innovations always go through the industrial parties that eventually implement them, but the institutions just don't have the size or motive to fund very exploratory concepts. Now is the time for high-risk high-payoff research, and we ought to fund it in pretty much exactly this way.
Also, perhaps the massive NAS document will provide some measure of clarity about which types of technologies ought to be funded.
On another note, I don't think this is really at all analogous to the open-source software movement for a variety of reasons. First, there's no $9B/year funding agency handing out grants for that stuff. Second, they're trying to COMPETE with MS Office and the like, as opposed to figure out a good idea and trust Microsoft to implement it effectively for everyone else. It's a lot more like funding research into the architecture of big networks, leading to an internet that's developed and implemented commercially.

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