House committee clears bill to establish Energy research agency

A bill to create a research-centric Energy Department agency that would focus on advancing American competitiveness in energy issues has cleared a committee for a vote on the House floor.

The proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would focus on developing and commercializing clean energy technologies. The intent would be to reduce American dependency on foreign energy sources and foster research into how energy sources could affect climate change.

ARPA-E would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which serves a similar function for Defense Department systems.

If the bill is passed, ARPA-E would receive $4.9 billion between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2012 to establish itself. Although the director of the agency would report to the Energy secretary, ARPA-E would be considered an independent entity. The House Science and Technology Committee struck down an amendment offered by ranking member Ralph Hall (R-Texas) to make DOE wholly responsible for the research agency.

“Establishing a nimble agency with a minimal amount of administrative layers is key to transforming [research] from lab projects into market-ready technologies,” said committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who introduced the original bill to create the agency in December 2005.

The idea for ARPA-E came originally from a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report.

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