Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: October 8, 2008

Innovation Will Solve America’s Energy, Economic Needs, Chairman Tells Zakaria

(Washington, DC) –The House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) offered the following statement on his recent discussion with Dr. Fareed Zakaria in this week’s Newsweek.  Chairman Gordon also discussed the topic on Newsweek On Air, which is available via podcast. 

I am glad that Dr. Zakaria and Newsweek are shining a light on the important issue of energy independence and how, in addition to meeting our need for sustainable, affordable energy, creating new energy technologies will help us create jobs and reinvigorate our economy. 

About half of the U.S.’s growth in GDP over the last 50 years is due to the development and adoption of new technologies.  The pursuit and development of new energy technologies will be the key to our economic competitiveness over the next fifty years. 

As I discussed with Dr. Zakaria, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, is uniquely positioned to be the bridge to a new energy economy. 

The full burden of developing these new technologies cannot fall exclusively to the business community.  Companies have to be accountable to stock holders, so their legitimate fear of failure means they are focused on tested ideas and near-term research.  The current system at the Department of Energy limits pursuit of cross-cutting and multi-disciplinary ideas. 

This is a time when we need radical breakthroughs, not incremental change. 

ARPA-E will bring together the best and the brightest from all sectors—national labs, academia, the private sector, even individual inventors—in a way that has never been done in energy research.  It will give them the resources and the autonomy they need, and it will get bureaucracy of their way so they can pursue high risk, high reward energy research and technology development. 

Because the market actors will be involved from the beginning, the tech transfer will be much more efficient than the current infrastructure.  Everyone is on the same page that the goal is to get these technologies into the market and into wide use as quickly as possible. 

The U.S. uses tax credits and incentives to encourage adoption of existing alternative energy technologies, as we passed in the rescue package.  That is an important step.  We also need the research to make clean energies so cost competitive that any business model would encourage their use.

ARPA-E was modeled after the highly successful DARPA, which fostered a culture of innovation at the Department of Defense.  DARPA’s list of credits includes stealth technology, body armor, GPS, and the internet.

ARPA-E is already law; it was signed into law as part of the America COMPETES Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support.  The House has proposed seed funding for ARPA-E at $15 million to cover the initial start-up costs.  To do the research, ARPA-E will need to be funded at the $300 million level called for in the legislation.  It will fall to the next president to make this research a priority.” 

For more information, including background on ARPA-E or the America COMPETES Act, please visit the Committee’s website

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News from the House Science and Technology Committee
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Bart Gordon, Chairman
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