Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that $275 million is included in the House-passed Omnibus Appropriations bill for cutting-edge research through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The original House budget had proposed to radically curtail the program, cutting this path-breaking research investment by up to 82 percent. Rep. Schiff offered an amendment to the FY2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill on the House Floor to restore the funding, which was approved on July 14 on a razor-thin 214 to 213 bipartisan vote. The Conference Committee adopted the higher level of funding in today's bill, which will now go to the Senate where it is expected to pass on quickly for President Barack Obama's signature later today.
"With unrest in the Middle East and increasing demand for energy in China, we need all of the revolutionary energy ideas we can get, which is why this program is so vital to our economic future and national security," Rep. Schiff said. "This program brings in some of the brightest people in the country into the Department of Energy for two or three years to help pioneer America's energy innovation and future."
The measure was supported by Caltech, MIT, the University of California and more than 50 leading universities, as well as the CEO's of many of America's leading companies. As a result of its adoption, the ARPA-E will not be cut by 82 percent, which would have made it impossible to replace scientists leaving at the end of their term and hamstringing the agency.
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.