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ARPA-E Has Found Its Footing Just Fine

ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2011, Washington,DC

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5325), which, as was previously observed on ITIF’s blog, curbs several renewable energy programs in comparison to FY2012 levels and the FY2013 presidential request. These potential cuts could not come at a worse time, seeing as how federal clean tech policy support is already set to dramatically decline.

The bill’s cut to the budget of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), however, is of particular concern. If the House has its way, the agency would only get $200 million, in stark contrast with the $275 million it received for FY2012, the $312 million set out by the corresponding Senate bill, and the $350 million proposed by President Obama. As Politico reports (subscription article), the House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), “has opposed attempts to increase funding for ARPA-E because the 3-year-old program, while promising, he says, still needs to find its footing.”

Nevertheless, as ITIF has pointed out, departing ARPA-E director Arun Majumdar is leaving the agency with a very impressive track record.

“We have to cut back somewhere,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) remarked on the general need for fiscal restraint at last year’s ARPA-E conference. “But we want to cut fat, not muscle and bone. Research and innovation are the muscle power that grows our economies. We need to set priorities so that we don’t do damage to the economy.” Or as FedEx chairman and CEO Fred Smith put it at this year’s summit, “Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, it’s hard to find a more effective thing the government has done than ARPA–E.” The fact is ARPA-E has found its footing just fine and deserves significantly more funding for FY2013 to make good on its promise.

Photo credit: Americans for Energy Leadership

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