The DOE’s general approach–funding near-term demonstration plants or factories at the same time as long-term research projects–is being taken in other areas of energy investment. Rogers mentioned 19 pilot biofuels plants as well long-term research efforts to make fuels out of carbon dioxide using energy from the sun. The DOE is also funding large-scale demonstration facilities for capturing and storing carbon dioxide at five power plants and more than a dozen industrial facilities, and is investing in developing new carbon-dioxide capture technologies, such as synthetic analogues of biological enzymes. The DOE has taken a similar approach with investing in more efficient lighting and solar-power technologies.
The DOE has also helped the U.S. Treasury Department sort through applications for grants and tax credits for building factories or installing solar panel arrays and wind farms. Rogers says these programs have been “among the most successful programs under the Recovery Act.” So far, $2.3 billion in tax credits has been directed to help fund 183 factories; about 700 renewable-energy projects have been helped with $3.3 billion in grants.
Two out of three applicants for the manufacturing tax credits had to be turned down, however, due to a lack of funds. President Obama wants Congress to add $5 billion to this program as part of a jobs bill this summer.
Similarly, many renewable-energy projects haven’t been funded because of delays in getting construction approved by state and federal agencies. The administration isn’t planning to extend these deadlines, though. Instead, Rogers says, it is looking to a comprehensive climate and energy bill that would support such projects in the future. Such a bill would include some sort of long-term signal to investors, such as a cap on carbon emissions that would attract capital for such installations. An energy and climate bill was passed by the House last year, but recent attempts to introduce such a bill in the Senate have stalled.