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Energy

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ARPA-E Expands Pursuit of Transportation Decarbonization

Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced funding opportunities for two new programs, each with $20 million, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. The first, Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE), is focused on developing improved biological technologies to convert natural gas to liquids for transportation fuels, while the second, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-Metal Systems (METALS), is geared towards improving the manufacturing and recycling of light metals for use in vehicles. (No one can fault the agency’s efforts to create clever acronyms). The move signals emerging government recognition of the importance of transportation decarbonization and the need for a range of innovative transportation technologies to facilitate that endeavor.

Cutting transportation sector emissions is critical to mitigating climate change. The ITIF report Shifting Gears notes that more than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to cars and light trucks. Furthermore, the report observes, the number of those vehicles on the road globally is estimated to grow more than 47 percent from 750 million in 2010 to 1.1 billion in 2039.

Fittingly, the federal government

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FAIR

Policymakers Share Common Ground on Energy Revenue, But Can They Deliver?

Yesterday, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Fixing America’s Inequality with Revenues (FAIR) Act, which would allow coastal states to collect a portion of the revenues of offshore energy production. Specifically, it provides royalty revenues from offshore oil and gas development to coastal states. States would automatically receive 27.5 percent of royalty revenues, but be eligible for an additional 10 percent provided they “establish funds to support projects relating to clean energy or conservation.” Today, coastal states outside of the Gulf of Mexico don’t receive any royalty revenue at all. While it is unclear what exactly these funds would entail, the emergence of the FAIR Act and President Obama’s recent Energy Security Trust Fund proposal reflects growing interest in linking energy production to energy innovation.

The FAIR Act is motivated in large part by a desire to financially empower coastal states and is only the latest attempt to expand state revenue sharing from offshore fossil fuel development. In 2006, The New Orleans Times-Picayune noted that a bill by Senator Landrieu “gave Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas 37.5 percent of proceeds from fuel production in the Gulf,

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Energy Security Trust Fund an Important Policy Pilot for Supporting Innovation

Last Friday, President Obama reiterated his support for the creation of an Energy Security Trust Fund during a speech at the Argonne National Laboratory, something he first proposed in his 2013 State of the Union address.  Specifically, according to a fact sheet released by the White House, the fund would provide $2 billion over ten years for research on cleaner transportation alternatives such as advanced biofuels and advanced batteries for electric vehicles, derived from royalty revenues from federal oil and gas development. The Energy Collective’s Jesse Jenkins and Brookings Institution senior fellow Mark Muro have already provided thoughtful commentary on the proposal (here and here, respectively), but here are a few important takeaways.

Tying next-generation transportation energy R&D to a dedicated revenue source is a welcome step towards consistently funding energy R&D overall. Federal energy research and development is severely underfunded. For years, energy policy experts and stakeholders have advocated for an annual federal energy R&D budget of $15 billion or more. Yet according to the Energy Innovation Tracker, federal funding for energy R&D totaled just $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2012. In comparison, the Defense

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Innovation Partnerships Will Only Grow in Importance

Public investment in clean energy innovation in general – both in the United States and abroad – is limited and underwhelming. For example, while the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has done good work, an annual budget of several hundred million dollars which has to be renewed by Congress year after year is insufficient for developing the clean energy technology needed to mitigate climate change. Unfortunately, the private sector has also traditionally underfunded research, development, and demonstration, key pieces of the energy innovation puzzle – which is why Scientific American writer Melissa Lott’s recent look at the trend of “innovation partnerships” is so encouraging.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), while global clean energy investment (public and private) in 2012 totaled $268.7 billion, only $30.2 billion, or a little more than 11 percent, went to research and development. Worse, total investment in the United States dropped by 32 percent. Furthermore, BNEF’s findings mirror that of Cleantech Group, which estimates that global clean-technology venture investment fell to $6.46 billion in 2012 – down 33 percent from the $9.61 billion invested the previous year. “Venture capitalists,” the San Jose Mercury News

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Jesse Jenkins Weighs in on the Energy Innovation Budget Builder

Guest post by Jesse Jenkins, MIT graduate researcher and former Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute.

ITIF recently unveiled an interesting new interactive budget tool based on data directly from the Energy Innovation Tracker entitled the Energy Innovation Budget Builder. Specifically, the Budget Builder allows users to allocate up to $50 billion across five innovation phases and see how their ideal budget compares to the actual federal FY2012 distribution.

Consistent with the recommendations in the October 2010 report, “Post-Partisan Power” co-authored by energy analysts at the Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute (including myself), I used the Budget Builder to craft a hypothetical budget that would devote U.S. clean energy innovation funds as follows:

http://energyinnovation.us/build/?picks=11500,2000,0,5000,6500,6750,1250,0,3000,4000

JJ energy innovation budget2

  • Double federal investments in basic energy sciences from about $1.5 billion today to $3 billion. Devote a considerable portion of this increased budget to more use-inspired basic science meant to remove basic science barriers to unlock breakthrough energy innovations, including roughly $300 million in annual funding to scale up the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) program over the coming years (EFRCs are currently funded

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ARPA-E’s RANGE Program Will Boost Battery Innovation

On the eve of their annual Energy Innovation Summit, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has announced funding for a new program focused on improving electric vehicle (EV) battery technologies. The new Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems (RANGE) program “seeks to improve EV range and reduce vehicle costs by re-envisioning the total EV battery system, rather than working to increase the energy density of individual battery cells,” as stated in the agency’s press release. The program’s establishment represents just the latest positive sign of the Energy Department’s commitment to foster battery innovation.

As MIT Technology Review reported last year, a $2.4 billion grant program under the 2009 Stimulus resulted in a substantial gap between domestic EV battery production capacity and actual battery demand. To be sure, while manufacturing capability is essential, demand for EVs and EV batteries by extension will only grow when battery technology can exceed expectations. And to accomplish that goal, ITIF has argued, policymakers need to emphasize battery innovation and “put the battery before the electric vehicle” – a need that has been underlined by the recent Broder-Tesla spat. Fortunately, the

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Unanswered EI 2013 Questions on Nuclear and Energy Storage

During the Energy Innovation 2013 conference at the end of January, panel moderators fielded hand-written questions submitted by the audience. Time was limited and many questions went unasked. Fortunately, the moderator of the panel on nuclear power and energy storage, IEEE Spectrum Associate Editor Eliza Strickland, as well as two of her panelists, author Gwyneth Cravens and Ambri CEO Phil Giudice, have since taken the time to respond to a few of them.

What are the cost differences between new nuclear in the U.S. v. China? What explains the difference? What if anything can be learned from China’s nuclear development?

ELIZA STRICKLAND:

It’s impossible to compare the costs of nuclear development in the US vs China, because the Chinese government is not at all transparent about its nuclear policies or practices. Analysts are forced to cobble together an understanding based on talks at international conferences, articles in the Chinese newspapers, and the occasional official pronouncement. The World Nuclear Association does a great job of keeping track of the situation, and updates its China page regularly: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf63.html.

As for what, if anything, can be learned from China’s example,

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Highlights of Senator Murkowski’s Energy 20/20 Policy Blueprint

On Monday, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a comprehensive, 121-page energy policy blueprint featuring about 200 policy recommendations spanning fossil fuels, clean energy technology, environmental responsibility, and effective government. “Energy 20/20 presents my vision for how we can move forward,” the Senator noted in a speech during the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) Winter Committee Meetings. “Call it a conversation starter.” As The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer points out in a great breakdown of the document, while “many of the proposals…are long-standing items on the Republican wish list,” “she also touches on smaller issues that don’t get as much attention.” More importantly, Senator Murkowski has included several policy recommendations that mirror ITIF’s own – here are a few highlights.

First, Energy 20/20 calls for greatly expanded domestic energy production, involving everything from oil and natural gas to more overlooked energy sources like hydropower and geothermal. In regard to oil and gas, for example, the blueprint advocates opening up the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as 2,000 acres in

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Energy Innovation Debate Panel

Looking to the Future at Energy Innovation 2013

The purpose of Energy Innovation 2013 – a half-day conference co-hosted by my organization, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and the Breakthrough Institute – was to discuss the possibility of developing and deploying all of the cheap, high-performing zero-carbon technologies necessary to meet 40 terawatts of projected global demand by mid-century.  Most importantly, the conference spurred debate on how the need for clean energy innovation should influence the climate and energy policy debate.

Over the course of three stellar panel discussions as well as follow-on debate via twitter (check out #EI13), a number of themes emerged that merit further debate amongst advocates, thinkers, and policymakers:

It’s Global Warming, Not American Warming

ITIF President Rob Atkinson set the stage for why energy innovation needs to be a policy priority by presenting a straight-forward logic chain: climate change is real and man-made, it’s about developing clean energy technologies that are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives to drive down carbon emissions, and it’s globally pervasive. Clean energy technologies need to be affordable to all nations, and particularly emerging economies with growing populations that will consume more energy in the coming

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It’s Global Warming, Not Just American Warming

One of the chief takeaways from the Energy Innovation 2013 conference last week is that “it’s global warming, not just ‘American warming,” as ITIF president Robert Atkinson put it in his opening remarks. “To fight climate change, policymakers need more than existing methods at their disposal and they must target clean technology innovations globally, according to experts,” is how E&E News summarized (subscription article) the event, with the emphasis on “globally.” It is thus unsurprising that economist Noah Smith wrote a thoughtful blog post that reaches the same conclusion.

Smith starts out by highlighting an infographic from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy which notes that U.S. total energy-related carbon emissions are down 13% since 2007, with natural gas increasingly providing baseload power in lieu of coal. “If the U.S. were the world,” Smith observes, “the fight against global warming would be going well.” Of course, “the U.S. is not the world”:

Global warming is global. The only thing that matters for the world is global emissions. And global emissions are still going up, thanks to strong increases in emissions in the developing world, notably China.

Figures released

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