Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The Energy Agency Trump Aims to Kill Could Instead Be a Model

  • Congressionally mandated study says ARPA-E is not failing
  • Agency in Energy Department could be model, study says

A congressionally mandated study determined that an Energy Department agency the budget of President Donald Trump aims to kill should instead serve as a model for the entire department.

A 239-page report released Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy has been a success and backs experimental energy research that would be unlikely to get funding from the private sector. 

The report, mandated by the 2007 legislation that created ARPA-E, concluded that elements of how ARPA-E operates should be adopted by other offices within the department. 

“There is no denying that this program fills a critical void in funding high-risk, high-reward research – an essential ingredient for our overall economic competitiveness,” said Scott Clausen, policy and research manager at the American Council on Renewable Energy.

ARPA-E was created with bipartisan support under President George W. Bush and has an annual budget of $290 million. It has funded nearly 600 different projects ranging from flying wind turbines to personal air conditioners since it began its work in 2009. In its budget proposal to Congress, the Trump administration proposed eliminating the program.

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The Energy Department did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

According to the report, 74 patents had been issued from entities that acknowledged ARPA-E funding and 45 projects have secured more than $1.25 billion in follow-on, private-sector funding. Thirty-six ARPA-E projects had led to the formation of new companies.

ARPA-E, modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has played a roll in funding technologies ranging from alternative fuels to battery storage and has been championed by Republican lawmakers who are unlikely to along with Trump’s request to ax the agency.

"I have been a strong supporter for ARPA-E and the positive outcomes that it produces," Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in an interview.

The National Academies study was led by Pradeep Khosla, the chancellor of the University of California-San Diego, and included a committee of 17 from academia and industry.

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