Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chairman Gordon Highlights Role of Science in Facing Energy Challenges

The solution to the current energy crisis will come from American innovation; however, the current approach to energy research hasn’t resulted in the breakthroughs we need. The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy or ARPA-E will revolutionize how our country develops new energy technologies.

Today we need revolutionary breakthroughs, not just incremental change. Currently, potentially revolutionary research may be too risky or multi-disciplinary to fit into a specific program’s mission at the Department of Energy, and the peer review system tends to favor established investigators pursuing well-understood concepts.

ARPA-E will solve those problems. ARPA-E came out of recommendations in the National Academies report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, and modeled after DARPA, which gave the Department of Defense breakthroughs like stealth technology, body armor, GPS, and the Internet. ARPA-E will leverage many of the same organizational elements that fostered innovation at DARPA. ARPA-E will be a similarly non-bureaucratic agency that brings together the best and brightest from industry, academia, and the public sector to pursue high-risk, high-reward research.

ARPA-E is charged with developing technologies that: reduce dependency on foreign oil; improve the energy efficiency of all economic sectors; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and maintain U.S. leadership in the development and deployment of energy technologies.

ARPA-E was signed into law last August as part of the America COMPETES act (PL 110-69). The FY09 House appropriations bill provides $15 million for ARPA-E to get organized, and it will fall to the next President to make this new approach to addressing our energy challenges a priority.

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