Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Bush Establishes DARPA for Energy

A new agency will fund risky research that just might pay off.

  • August 10, 2007

For years, various organizations have pushed for a new federal agency focused on quickly developing new technology for solving our energy woes. Last week, President Bush signed into law a bill that provides for just such an agency, although it has yet to receive any funding.

The new agency, called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds high-risk (read: unlikely to pay off), cutting edge, and sometimes harebrained research related to defense. DARPA has had some success. It grew out of an agency that launched the Internet, and it has sponsored a “grand challenge” program that led to a robotic SUV that can navigate new terrain on its own. Some of its ideas have been, well, less than inspired.

Will it work for energy? There are certainly areas that need out-of-the-box thinking, such as ways to break theoretical limits for solar cells or ways to convert carbon-dioxide emissions into fuels. Maybe the agency can find good ideas that are now slipping through the cracks.

But what is desperately needed is a coherent policy that will push industry and government to implement the technologies available now that can make a difference, such as variable valve timing on gasoline engines, clean diesel, and advanced hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology. The president has threatened to veto an energy bill now before Congress that would take steps to doing just that.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.