60-Second Earth

The Little Energy Program That Could?

The innovative research and development program known as ARPA-e is in imminent danger of losing funding--and putting the U.S. even further behind in its bid for a clean-energy economy. David Biello reports

Batteries to store megawatts of power. Strong magnets that don't rely on rare earths. Turning CO2 into fuel. If you hear about some "game-changing" energy research in the U.S., chances are ARPA-e is behind it.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-e, is intended to invest in high risk, high reward energy research that probably wouldn't be done otherwise.

As it stands the U.S. government spends roughly $4 billion a year on energy research and development. And ARPA-e's budget is just $388 million, despite the broad popularity of such a program. A proposal released this week by the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Brookings Institution would increase ARPA-e style energy research funding to at least $15 billion a year in a bid to combat climate change and improve energy security.

Instead of that happening, however, ARPA-e is in danger of losing its funding entirely. That means no more money for better ways to capture CO2 and store it or energy efficiency. Which is good news only if you like this summer's oil spill, mountaintop removal mining, catastrophic climate change and the ongoing transfer of wealth from the U.S. to oil-producing countries.

—David Biello


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