President Obama Commits to Energy

On April 27, President Obama spoke before the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences to discuss his plans to reinvigorate the American scientific enterprise through a commitment to basic and applied research, innovation and education.

Citing the challenges the country faces in global economic competitiveness, energy and health, the President called for the U.S. to surpass its record investment in research and development, set in 1964 at the height of the space race, exceeding three percent of GDP.  This goal would be met with both public and private investment, according to the President.

During the speech, the President announced the launch of the $400 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).  ARPA-E is a new Department of Energy organization modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

ARPA-E will award grants to recipients that enhance the economic and energy security of the United States through the development of breakthrough energy technologies; reduce the need for consumption of foreign oil; reduce energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; improve the energy efficiency of all economic sectors; and ensure that the United States maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.

ARPA-E will issue an initial solicitation that will focus on applicants with a well-formed R&D plan for a transformational concept or new technology that can make a significant contribution towards attainment of the President’s Energy Plan. 

Under this announcement, ARPA-E will fund energy technology projects that (1) translate scientific discoveries and cutting-edge inventions into technological innovations and (2) accelerate transformational technological advances in areas that industry is not likely to undertake independently because of high technical or financial risk.

Also, the President proposed a joint initiative by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation that will inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship related to clean energy–with programs and scholarships from grade school to graduate school.

In addition, the Department of Energy will announce grants to establish 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers with a total planned commitment of $777 million.  These centers will address current fundamental scientific roadblocks to clean energy and energy security. 

Roughly one-third of the centers will be supported by Recovery Act funding.


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