May 3 News: The Planet’s Venture Capital Firm, ARPA-E


ARPA-E hopes to revolutionize the economy helping to create strong sustainable and renewable fuel companies. [Marketwatch]

Someplace in America, some very smart scientists are busy revolutionizing our economy.

At least, that’s what a small federal agency — ARPA-E (the Advanced Energy Projects Agency-Energy) — hopes to accomplish by giving a few million dollars to each of hundreds of promising technologies that could change the way the world produces and consumes energy.

Some of these researchers are rushing to invent, perfect and commercialize the technologies that could one day replace petroleum and other fossil-fuels as the world’s dominant energy source.

The hope is that these new technologies could allow us to dramatically cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases without hurting economic growth. Indeed, energy costs could be much lower and less volatile. The right mix of technologies could make any country or region entirely energy self-sufficient. …

ARPA-E is almost like a venture capital firm, nurturing many ideas in the hope that one of them will be The Next Big Thing. But ARPA-E isn’t a VC firm; it doesn’t provide all the financing needed to bring a product to market, only the seed money to prove the technology enough to attract private venture capital.

The ARPA-E incubator is already showing some successes: So far, 17 of its projects have attracted follow-up funding from the private sector totaling $450 million. Twelve other projects have started new companies, and 10 more are receiving additional funds from other government agencies.

More on that fast-moving wildfire in Southern California that has now reached the Pacific Coast Highway. [LA Times]

The U.S. delegation to the climate talks in Bonn is advancing a plan that would scrap Kyoto and allow countries to set their own emissions goals — which are likely to be too low to limit warming temperatures. [Reuters]

AP highlights the technological advancements made by fossil fuel extractors, focusing on the disparity between investment in that technology versus renewable energy technology. [AP]

What does clean energy technology investment mean? Some funds are stretching the definition beyond what one might think. [AP]

In Mexico, President Obama and President Nieto said they looked forward to implementing a deal to more easily expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. [Reuters]

The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee set May 9 as the day EPA nominee Gina McCarthy will get a vote. [The Hill]

Wisconisn’s dependence on coal-fired power plants (and stunted wind industry) is catching up with it, according to a new report. [CleanTechnica]

The World Meteorological Organization reported that indeed, record lows in Arctic sea ice are the result of global warming. [Telegraph]

New Mexico State Representatives are skeptical of the supposed unscientific (read: tobacco advocacy and climate denial) of a candidate to lead New Mexico State University. [Las Cruces Sun-News]

Watch the Solar Impulse fly from San Francisco to Phoenix. [Solar Love]

47 Responses to May 3 News: The Planet’s Venture Capital Firm, ARPA-E

  1. fj says:

    ARPA-E and the organizations it is financing seem most encouraging.

  2. Superman1 says:

    “The hope is that these new technologies could allow us to dramatically cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases without hurting economic growth.” Same as for chronic diseases: looking for the ‘magic bullets’ that will not require us to make the hard sacrifices of eliminating the causes. We need to cut fossil fuel demand NOW, as harshly and as drastically as possible!

  3. Superman1 says:

    These types of projects have been funded by the DOE for decades. The organizations in which they are housed are periodically abolished, then revived under different names, giving the appearance that something radically new has been created. The projects themselves are then re-classified so they both appear to be radically new and fit within the mission of the new organization. This is the continuation of decades old policy; don’t expect ‘magic bullets’ because of the hype.

  4. fj says:

    Just like the internet.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “We need to cut fossil fuel demand NOW, as harshly and as drastically as possible!”

    Please tell us what YOU have done to cut YOUR fossil fuel use as harshly and drastically as possible.

  6. Ed Leaver says:

    Re: NMSU Las Cruces presidential candidate Garrey Carruthers, former chairman The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. Oreskes and Conway devote 2 pages to TASSC in their history Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury Press 2010).

    TASSC was launched by APCO Associates in Nov. 1993 with efforts to hide the Philip Morris connection. APCO was enlisted because PM’s main PR agency, Burson-Marsteller, was too obviously associated with the tobacco giant. John Bolz, a manager of media affairs at PM, supplied APCO with a list of sympathetic reporters but APCO, not Bolz, placed the calls to “remove any possible link to PM” (3 citations)…

    Scientific advisors to TASSC included Fred Singer, Fred Seitz, and Michael Fumento. MIT climate change skeptic Richard Lindzen was asked to join by Mr. Carruthers, but the authors do not say whether Dr. Lindzen accepted his invitation. (Merchants of Doubt pages 150-151, 316).

    Mr. Carruthers denies knowledge of TASSC’s tobacco connection. They did create such plausibility. Climate change is a bit more clear. NMSU is a respected institution of advanced scientific research, and NM state legislature is probably due an explanation.

  7. Ed Leaver says:

    One should note the above was 20 years past. Humans may err, and perceptions change with time and education. It will be interesting to hear from Mr. Carruthers.

  8. Superman1 says:

    Your question, like your proposals, is irrelevant. If we want to save the biosphere, a necessary, but not sufficient, condition is that ‘we need to cut fossil fuel demand NOW, as harshly and as drastically as possible!’ That requirement is independent of what you as an individual do, or I as an individual do, or what Joe does.

  9. SecularAnimist says:

    No, Superman1.

    Your consistent refusal to offer EVEN ONE SINGLE SPECIFIC SUGGESTION as to how emissions could be quickly cut, or EVEN ONE SINGLE SPECIFIC EXAMPLE of the supposedly “harsh” and “unacceptable” consequences of cutting emissions that you blather about, is entirely “relevant”.

    So is the fact that you blame continued fossil fuel use on the supposed unwillingness of “the global public” to take any action, while REFUSING to to respond to repeated, polite requests to give EVEN ONE SPECIFIC EXAMPLE of such actions that you have taken, or that others might take.

    What’s quite clear is that your vague, unsupported, unspecified threats of “harsh and draconian sacrifices” are vacuous.

    What’s quite clear is that your attacks on the “global public” — which apparently means everyone on Earth EXCEPT YOU — for refusing to take actions that YOU REFUSE TO TAKE, is naked hypocrisy.

    You have never brought anything to this site except unsupported (and repeatedly refuted) assertions, defeatism, sneering attacks on everyone who ever takes any action to reduce fossil fuel use, falsehood-filled attacks on every solution offered to reduce fossil fuel use, insistence that the fossil fuel corporations should be held blameless, and hypocritical, misanthropic attacks on “the global public” for supposedly failing to take the actions that you refuse to take yourself.

    Frankly, such boorish bloviation was boring when USENET was young, and it has not improved with age.

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Get a sneak preview of the new Climate State website

    Notice: Members can submit video content YT/Vimeo.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    So much for the climate talks between China and the USA! Sounds like the USA is up to the same old tricks at Bonn, ME

  12. Raul M. says:

    ITER says that a fusion reactor is being built in France.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And Australia, ME-are we up to our old, bi-partisan, delaying, obstructing tricks again? I’ll miss Rudd though-his hysterical, potty-mouthed rants at Copenhagen were a real low in public life in this country, but, pretty soon, I’d say, they will probably pale into insignificance. The vision of Tony Abbott strutting the international stage is …beyond words.

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Probably Mulga. I used to think I had a reasonable imagination but it can’t cope with the Mad Monk representing us OS, ME

  15. fj says:

    forget fusion.

  16. fj says:

    name the projects.

    describe them.

  17. fj says:

    It would be good to get an estimate how much it would cost to reinvent NYC to go net zero, 100 billion to 200 billion dollars at most by 2020; in one of the world’s greatest cities.

    Considering that it is estimated to cost 5.7 trillion dollars per year by 2020 to reinvent civilization to survive climate change a success in NYC would be one of the major replicable successes for reinventing civilization.

    And, something is not impossible if already exists.

  18. “…the Advanced Energy Projects Agency-Energy) — hopes to accomplish by giving a few million dollars to each of hundreds of promising technologies that could change the way the world produces and consumes energy.”

    Huh? We already have plenty of technologies that can change the way the world produces and consumes energy. The most promising is building weatherization that would create mega negawatts. Then there is passive solar gain; passive earth cooling and heating; concentrated solar thermal electricity; solar PV; wind power; smart grid connections; electric bicycles; electric or at least hybrid cars; high-speed trains; energy efficiency engineering in factories (more negawatts; behavioral changes such as working during daylight hours; turning down the thermostat and wearing a sweater in the winter; growing deciduous trees between your house and the sun; growing billions of trees worldwide; making biochar; growing organic food.

    OK, there’s 17 technologies that will change the way the world produces and consumes energy. I’ll take my $17 million bucks now — and, thanks.

  19. Superman1 says:

    I repeat: your question, like your proposals, is completely irrelevant to addressing the challenges of climate change.

  20. Raul M. says:

    How big a solar electric plant could someone do for a million bucks?
    Could someone get enough selling the power to beat a 5% interest rate.

  21. Superman1 says:

    Philip, What you have here is the confluence of three driving forces: the mission of the DOE (ever-increasing R&D on energy-related topics), the allure of the DARPA name, and the urgent need to address climate change. What you’re seeing is basically a sales brochure; they’ve been doing the same type of work reported here for many decades.

  22. Raul M. says:

    Isn’t it odd to use the name Superman1?
    Anyway, wouldn’t it make good math for someone to better their community by providing a solar electric power distribution source?
    And wouldn’t that project return a healthy income off the power distribution?
    I think that it would also provide a way for someone or group to have a nice involvement with their community.

  23. Superman1 says:

    Raul, I have commented in some detail on fusion, including ITER. See Joe’s article on the NYTimes, 1 May; #28, in response to Alan Roth. I would be interested in hearing your comments.

  24. prokaryotes says:

    Wildfire tearing through Southern California nearly triples in size

  25. Superman1 says:

    “Isn’t it odd to use the name Superman1?” Would you prefer I use Mulga Mumblebrain1, or any of the other ordinary everyday pseudonyms we see here? Or, even Raul M1?

  26. Superman1 says:

    “providing a solar electric power distribution source?” I addressed that specific issue as part of my response to Alan Roth on fusion (Joe’s 1 May article on NYTimes, comment #28).

  27. Superman1 says:

    “We already have plenty of technologies that can change the way the world produces and consumes energy.” I still do some research in the biomedical area. I am amazed at the parallel between our attitudes towards disease and our attitudes toward climate change.

  28. Superman1 says:

    We now have the information available to prevent most diseases (with obvious exceptions for individuals with STRONG genetic predisposition), and we certainly know how to curtail climate change. But, the information and knowledge are irrelevant in both cases, and we would rather 1) continue our profligate behaviors and search for the ‘magic bullets’ to save us than 2) make the required sacrifices to avoid the damage.

  29. fj says:

    About a dozen years ago an important “Leeds” architect detailed the seriousness of climate change to me.

    After that I started doing an accounting of the things I do with a goal to minimize my environmental footprint and see how difficult it is.

    I have found that it was not difficult at all.

    I have not experienced any hardship or sense of sacrifice. I am healthy and happy and my life is good.

    Substantially lowering my footprint much more will likely depend on a low footprint source of income and the availability of environmentally small-footprint services.

    I do believe there is a huge amount of waste in those things that are essential and it does not seem that there would be much sacrifice when that waste is eliminated.

    It is my belief that most if not all the high footprint stuff can easily be replaced with much better designs with very low environmental footprints.

    In fact, I strongly believe that things will work a lot better and people will be a lot healthier, happier, and wiser in a low footprint world.

    I also believe that ultimately based on the nature of intelligence and the very nature of human development that the manmade world will be net positive.

    What you can do to reduce your carbon footprint (NRDC)

  30. You could use the $1 million as seed money for a town to start it’s own community solar program, and let the residents do the rest of the financing in blocks ranging from $250 to $250,000 (a young married couple wanting to buy into the community system to a medical clinic needing to power its X-ray machines and lights.)

    We need to deploy, deploy, deploy. More research is nice, but it won’t do any good to discover the latest technology if it’s not going to be widely deployed — the exact situation we’re in now.

  31. Raul M. says:

    lol- lots of laughs.
    By the way

  32. Raul M. says:

    Thank-you for the reference to your previous comment.
    I had read that and was amazed by the reference to the start up price that the company is enjoying. But how big would a 20 billion dollar solar elec. facility be? Why with that much money on solar there could be a covered walkway walkway setup going beside the electric tram.
    Well at a price of 400 dollars a foot that would be 2.5 million feet of solar electric covered walkway. Or in miles that is about 473 miles. Now going 473 miles in just about any direction on land there are probably many who would like to use elec. power.

  33. Superman1 says:

    Raul, “But how big would a 20 billion dollar solar elec. facility be?” That was the point of my comment. Why spend that kind of money on what is essentially a scientific feasibility experiment on what will probably be an enormously expensive commercial energy source when you could blanket the SW with PV cells linked to a grid and get some near-term results?

  34. Raul M. says:

    It’s a cloudy day out today.
    And the sun is powerful.
    Being receptive to that power is seemingly optional and ultimately necessary. That the solar elec. type panel is operational is helpful. I like my solar elec. panels and it is a satisfying like. At first I was thrilled to experience the mystery of leaving solar panels outside and getting elec. power to use to power the air conditioner on a hot day.
    And the next day it was hot as well. When I came home from work the room was cool and I didn’t have to listen to the window A/C unit running for hours before it would cool the room. And it was already paid for so I didn’t have to try to calculate how often or long to leave the A/C running. Why it’s a like that just keeps on going and going.

  35. Raul M. says:

    It must be quite a feasibility study to actually envision a solar panel covered walkway. Probably better to just start with a back of the envelope calculation. Thanks…

  36. Raul M. says:

    For my grid tie modular back of the envelope thought exercise, I will figure on making the solar panel covered walkway module of longish panels set width to width for the normal distance between telephone poles. And I’ll figure a grid tie setup for each module. Such an arrangement if widened to a residential street width could supply power to a neighborhood and it would still keep mostly to it’s self to boot. Course, if it was to cover a tramway, then the tram could benifit also.

  37. Raul M. says:

    Say, if it wasn’t a tram, no, just single cars that had a elec. rod that would reach to the underside of the overhead solar elec. covering, why then the cars could charge up while transiting and make it the relatively short distances from the solar elec. transport line. And if there was extra power which there would probably be, then it would flow to the homes and workplaces along the way, seeing as how the width of the transport line would reflect the amount of energy needed. And as far as the time of day well some elec. power is usually better as it would be used. Humm.

  38. Raul M. says:

    Of course, elec. busses could be added for those who would rather use the mass transport means and not have to bother with walking long distances from the parking lots. Yes, many concepts have already been deployed. Oh, and a weak warming signal could be set to the solar elec.panels to melt snow buildup on occasion.

  39. fj says:

    Reinventing New York City to be net zero in five year’s at a cost of 200 billion dollars would make good economic sense; being at less than one-fifth the local one $trillion real estate value; and less than one-fifth the one $trillion annual economic activity of the New York Metropolitan Region it is central to and one of the world’s largest economies.

  40. fj says:

    This could rapidly stabilize a huge very important part of the United States and serve to breed broad rapid deployment of similar actions domestically and worldwide.

  41. fj says:

    And, it may be relatively easy to sufficiently manage the risk of such a large venture.

  42. fj says:

    Return on investment could be rapid.

  43. fj says:

    Even more so as a great welcoming safe haven and city on the hill offering reciprocating support to a civilization on the verge of collapse.

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Look, Super..don’t bring my family into it. The Mumblebrains are proud, simple, folk, not easily raised to indignation, but deride the family name and all bets are off. And there have been Mulgas in the family since the ancestral patriarch was so named by his Granddam, who observed, ‘That boy’s as thick and as dense as a lump of old mulga wood!’.

  45. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Superman1 is a very strong argument against nominative determinism, ME

  46. fj says:

    Around the turn of the 1900s it was Einstein’s math tutor of the stuff that provided the formalism for General Relativity, Herman Minkowski; and, perhaps channeling Kafka: “We live in an age of technological metamorphosis where mechanics is changing into electronics . . . ”

    The wonders will never cease.

  47. Superman1 says:

    Au contraire! It is the perfect impedance match to my postings.