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House Bill Would Cut Clean Energy and Efficiency Programs by 40 Percent

Appropriations bill puts renewable energy and efficiency funding about $1 billion below current levels, roughly equaling dollars doled out in 2005

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jun 21, 2011
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.)

As well, the president had called for lopping the fossil office by $417 million, 44 percent below 2010 appropriations. Savings for the president's budget figure of $520 million would have come from peeling away money for fossil energy research and development, as well as the .

Slashing ARPA-E Illogical

Lew Milford, founder and president of the Montpelier, Vt.-based nonprofit complimented Chu for recognizing ARPA-E as an avenue for expanding a nascent industry.

"We're cutting off our nose to spite our face," Milford told SolveClimate News in an interview about ARPA-E's rocky funding record. "ARPA-E is one of the few public programs that focuses on energy innovation. Without it, we won't get the big bang of technology benefits to produce jobs and economic benefits in the long run."

The last actual appropriation for ARPA-E was $389 million for fiscal year 2009.

DARPA, the military program Chu is mimicking, is unusual because it serves a customer that will buy at any cost, Milford said. But that freedom within the Department of Defense supports a unique model that allows an idea to morph into a prototype that is deployed throughout branches of the military before spilling over into the civilian marketplace.

"That's what you need for energy technologies to be working and seamlessly connected," Milford said, adding that DOE has wisely signed a memorandum of understanding agreement with the Defense Department to give ARPA-E room to grow. "To deal with issues such as market demand, DOE has to expand its portfolio of options and essentially create customers."

He emphasized that eventually DOE should form ARPA-E partnerships with states because development agencies at that level are looking for niche strategies to boost the clean energy policies they have in place.

"It's not ARPA-E's fault or anybody else's that we're not there yet," Milford said. "The clean energy industry is young at 10 to 20 years old when compared to a fossil fuels industry that's more than 100 years old."

GAO: National Strategy Necessary

In the midst of this season's budget travails, the has issued recommending what likely seems obvious to even casual observers of congressional politics — the need to replace a piecemeal approach to climate and energy with a national plan.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) by the investigative arm of Congress on Monday. The somewhat clunky title is "Climate Change: Improvements Needed to Clarify National Priorities and Better Align Them with Federal Funding Decisions."

To get there, the GAO spells out a two-step solution that is probably easier written on paper than actually accomplished.

First, federal authorities need to set clear strategic climate change priorities that identify specific roles and responsibilities of key federal entities involved in the enterprise.

Second, those same authorities have to assess how effective they are now at not only defining and reporting federal climate change funding but also lining up that funding with agreed-upon priorities. Those practices will have to be polished so Congress and the public can fully grasp how the government spends money designated for climate change.

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