As gas prices continue to rise, alternative fuels are getting renewed attention. And that’s where the government’s biggest incubator in clean energy comes in. Like DARPA does for military technology, “ARPA-E” funds early stage, high-risk research. It has a more cumbersome name, “Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.”
The program is looking for the next Google in clean technology and it may come from innovations such as cryogenic carbon capture for coal plants or transportation fuels from algae. QUEST’s Andrea Kissack talks with Arun Majumdar, former deputy director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who now heads up ARPA-E, about the long path toward a clean energy future.
Majumdar says ARPA-E is pre-venture, early research and describes some projects the agency is funding that show great promise, including advances in electric car battery research at two Bay Area start ups and promising biofuels research in Colorado. Majumdar is also the second man at the Department of Energy and credits the Recovery Act for adding new jobs and helping jump start already existing technologies. The DOE, however, has been under attack since solar manufacturer Solyndra filed for bankrupcy. Majumdar talks about the federal loan guarantee program and also responds to possible trade sanctions on solar panels coming from China. Finally, he discusses the big breakthroughs needed to make cleaner energy viable.