Murkowski also noted that private investment in several ARPA-E projects “helps greatly” in maintaining that support. According to the agency, six of its projects have together pulled in over $100 million in private investment since they received initial funding from the agency.
Support for ARPA-E also stems from a bipartisan belief that investments in energy research are good for the economy, particularly in the longer term. “We have to cut back somewhere,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) at the ARPA-E conference. “But we want to cut fat, not muscle and bone. Research and innovation are the muscle power that grows our economies. We need to set priorities so that we don’t do damage to the economy.”
The agency is also viewed as essential to national security, according to Representative Steve Israel (D-New York), speaking at the conference. “Here’s our defense paradigm: we are borrowing energy from China to fund defense budgets, to buy oil from the Persian Gulf, to fuel our weapons systems, to protect us from China and the Persian Gulf,” Israel said. “We are reliant on our adversaries for our national security,” and investment in new energy technologies is crucial to changing this, he said.
Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus said at the same conference that dependence on oil makes the military “too susceptible to supply and price shocks,” and that the need to protect supply lines for transporting fuel results in large numbers of casualties. Mabus has set a goal for the Navy and the Marines to meet half their energy requirements with nonfossil fuels by 2020. At the conference, he announced a partnership between the Department of Defense and ARPA-E on two projects. One seeks to improve energy storage systems for soldiers in the field and for electrical systems on ships; DOD and ARPA-E have each requested $25 million for 2012 for this project. The military will also work with an existing grid storage program at ARPA-E to increase the supply of electricity at military bases.