Subcommittee Advances ARPA-E, H-Prize Legislation
(Washington, DC) The House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today cleared two bills for consideration by the full Committee. Both pieces of legislation were previously before the Committee in the 109th Congress.
“These two bills represent another step in this Committee’s efforts to push the envelope of technological possibility, and provide the American people a future with cheaper, cleaner, better energy options,” said Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX).
H.R. 364, offered by full Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) establishes an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The bill is the third piece in a package of innovation legislation passed by the Committee (H.R. 362 and H.R. 363). The package is based on the widely regarded recommendations of the National Academies’ (NAS) Rising Above the Gathering Storm report – which was requested by Gordon and a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in 2005.
“I first introduced this bill in the 109th Congress in response to recommendations made by the National Academies,” said Chairman Gordon. “Their Gathering Storm report recognized that the U.S. dependence on traditional energy sources and outdated technologies puts us in a perilous position – and that we could not afford to wait until we face severe disruptions to fossil energy supplies or serious impacts from climate change to address this challenge.”
Modeled after the Department of Defense’s DARPA, ARPA-E is a new program charged with the mission of rapidly developing and commercializing transformational clean energy technologies.
“DARPA succeeded largely because it continued to foster a culture of innovation. We cannot legislate an agency’s culture. But we can set up a nimble organization with minimal administrative layers and the ability to quickly start and stop research programs. These elements are key to the success of ARPA-E, and to transforming energy R&D from the laboratory bench into market-ready technologies,” added Gordon. “Establishing an ARPA-E is a bold step, but we’ve got to be willing to push this envelope, make some tough but firm commitments to get the job done.”
A Manager’s Amendment to H.R. 364 was offered by Chairman Lampson, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). The amendment adds additional goals for greenhouse gas emissions, effiency and economic competitiveness. It also seeks to ensure the innovative culture at ARPA-E by translating some of the critical organizational elements that made DARPA. Additionally, it increases authorization levels and sets guidelines and limits for funding. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.
The subcommittee defeated an amendment – on voice vote – offered by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) that would have replaced text in the underlying bill with directions to DOE and NAS to study the ARPA-E concept and make recommendations on implementation.
H.R. 632, offered by Committee Vice-Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC) would establish a national prize competition to encourage the development of breakthrough technologies that would enable a hydrogen economy. The legislation would direct the Secretary of Energy to contract with a private foundation or other non-profit entity to establish criteria for the prizes and administer the prize contest.
“Working families are suffering under record high gasoline and natural gas prices, and we know about the national security threats posed by our continued reliance on foreign fossil fuels,” said Lipinski. “Hydrogen is one energy source that has shown great potential for powering our economy in the future and I want to ensure that our country is at the forefront of hydrogen research.”
Passed overwhelmingly in the House last Congress by a vote of 416-6, the H-Prize is a monetary reward to innovators who surmount the barriers that slow us in our drive towards a hydrogen economy. The Act would provide prizes for the most significant breakthroughs in hydrogen storage, production, utilization, and distribution; a biennial prize would be awarded for the most successful prototype use of hydrogen.