Today, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee passed legislation to fund the Department of Energy (DOE), but sharply reduced the investment in cutting edge research into new technologies. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) offered an amendment to the bill that would have restored funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a revolutionary arm of DOE started in 2009 to pursue high-risk, high-reward research on energy.
Schiff's amendment was supported by Caltech, MIT, the University of California and over 50 leading universities, as well as the CEO's of many of America's leading companies. Unfortunately, the amendment failed by voice vote. As a result, the ARPA-E will be cut 82%, providing scarce resources to replace scientists leaving at the end of their term and hamstringing the agency.
"With unrest in the Middle East and increasing demand for energy in China, we need all of the revolutionary energy ideas we can get," Rep. Schiff said. "As we cut spending to return the budget to balance, we must not cut those programs that are vital to our economic future and national security. ARPA-E is just such an agency, bringing in some of the brightest people in the country for two or three years to help pioneer America's energy innovation and future. These cuts couldn't be more short-sighted."
Other DOE energy research programs focus on maturing technologies that can be deployed soon, and don't have the vital collaborations with industry and academia that are present at ARPA-E. ARPA-E is modeled after the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has produced famously successful inventions for the Department of Defense, and the nation, perhaps most notably the Internet. A key element of both agencies is that managers are limited to fixed terms, so that new blood continuously revitalizes the research portfolio.
Compared with the White House request, the bill will provide $1.9 billion less for DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy office, and $616 million less for its science office.