Last night, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) passed a bipartisan amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill which would boost funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $20 million, to a total of $70 million a year. Started in 2009, ARPA-E is a revolutionary program that has advanced high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.
ARPA-E is modeled after an incredibly successful Defense Department program -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- which has produced famously successful inventions for the Department of Defense, 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, and new ideas are pushed to the front.
"With unrest in the Middle East and an increasing demand for energy both in our country and abroad, we need all of the revolutionary energy ideas we can get," said Rep. Adam Schiff. "While other programs focus on funding technologies that can be deployed soon, ARPA-E focuses on the high-risk, high-reward technologies that have the capacity to completely remake our society and economy, and the cut proposed -- over 80% -- was simply too much for any agency to absorb. I'm glad that we were able to restore some of this vital funding, and it's my hope that we can further strengthen our investment in cutting edge research in conference."
"Congress has a responsibility to the American people to be a good steward of their hard-earned tax dollars, and investing in accountable, verifiable game-changing energy solutions for American families achieves that goal," said Rep. Rob Woodall. "ARPA-E has broad support on both sides of the aisle because it produces results. While we in congress may disagree about whether the federal government should be borrowing more or borrowing less, our amendment ensures that the money we do borrow and spend goes directly toward cutting-edge technology research and American energy security rather than growing an already oversized bureaucracy."
"As a founder of several startup companies before coming to Congress, I understand the value of taking risks to achieve great rewards," said Rep. Jared Polis. "In order for ARPA-E energy startups to be successful, early support is critical. I was pleased to work with Representatives Schiff and Woodall in order to restore $20 million in much-needed funding to ARPA-E. While it won't make ARPA-E's budget whole, it will at least provide additional funding to curb the impacts of the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill's initial 81% cut of this important program."
The Energy and Water appropriations bill funds ARPA-E at $50 million, $215 million (81%) below the FY13 level and $329 million below the FY14 requested level. This increase is fully paid for with a reduction in the Department Administration account.