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Using stimulus dollars to push energy innovation

The stimulus bill allocates $400 million for research to find new ways to produce, consume and store energy.  Coordinating the undertaking is the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), which is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that was set up in 1958 after the Russians launched Sputnik.  DARPA is often credited with helping to spur the creation of the Internet. ARPA-E was proposed by Pres. George W. Bush but got its first funding under the Obama administration’s stimulus bill.  ARPA-E’s strategy is to invest early in ventures that could return huge profits if they’re successful.  So far, ARPA-E has funded 37 projects worth $151 million., from a total of more than 3,000 applications.  Researchers have submitted  more than 500 applications that ARPA-E is now considering for a second round of $100 million in grants .  No one expects all the research projects to bear fruit, but if a few are successful, they will be game-changing.  Those that reach the market will create many jobs over the next 5-10 years.  Critics argue that the government should sponsor scientific research, not invest in particular projects.

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