Saturday, March 26, 2011


You may remember, last April, President Obama launched the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as part of the initiative to boost federal investment in research and development and science education. 
(the picture above is a  Ga ball-Si crystal-SiOx Nanowire Octapus)
That sparked outrage from the Republicans and their TeaParty spokespersons. They disagreed with the $150M allocated in the Recovery Act for research leaning toward renewable alternative energy sources.  

 Well, first example of advancement due to this funding, is the Liquid Metal Battery under development at MIT. Another is the Symbiotic Bio-Reactor being developed at UMinn that could create synthetic gasoline. Lastly, we are intimately aware of the Crystal Growth Technology that if successful, drastically advance the LED light manufacturing possibilities. We saw LED examples displayed at the TechCity facility in Ulster, NY. 
So why do I bring funding like this up now? Well, while we had the two year national throwdown over the spending in the "stimulus", this particular funding was singled out because it threatened the companies that backed the opposition (oil & coal) which is understandable. That's how our government works. What is troublesome is how we compartmentalize the priorities facing this country. 

 With the current military operation in Libya, we are spending millions of dollars a day. The F-15 that crashed cost $100M. It is going to be replaced with a $150M F-35. 
In one day, this operation cost the US more than was spent for Alternative Energy Research in 2009. True, $400M was set aside for the ARPA-E initially, but only 36 teams met the criteria last year. The funding is intended to fund high-risk, high-reward research that might not otherwise be pursued because there is a relatively high risk of failure. Almost the same attempt we are making in Libya.
The Pentagon has placed an arbitrary limit on Odyssey Dawn at $1Billion before approaching Congress for more money. They have a contingency fund that could float the operation for a short time. It's been done before, it will happen again. 

  As noted in the National Journal: These unanticipated costs come at a time when the Pentagon is putting pressure on Capitol Hill to pass its fiscal 2011 budget. Continuing to operate under a stopgap continuing resolution through September, senior Defense officials argue, would amount to a $23B cut to the military’s request for the current fiscal year, which began on October 1. The Pentagon wants $708B for this year, including $159B for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the U.S. military, the highest costs of the operations over Libya come in the form of munitions, fuel for aircraft, and combat pay for deployed troops -- all factors that will pile up each day U.S. forces remain at the helm of the operation.

One week in, U.S.-led forces launched 162 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost about $1M to $1.5M each, from ships stationed off the Libyan coast. The total to replace those missiles comes to between $162M to $243M. It is unclear how many of those Tomahawks came from the U.S. inventory, but it is believed the vast majority did.

So why then, do we consistently fight over the inconsequential spending in Energy Alternative Research when our government regurgitates Billions in war ventures? And shockingly enough, not a single peep from the Tea Party Overspending Alarmists?  

Truth is, you wont hear a word from these folks. Why? Because the industries poised to reap the benefits of a prolonged engagement in Libya and other oil rich countries are the very same funding sources that mobilized much of the TeaParty movement. If these folks were thinking more about our country's long term health and diminished dependency on foreign oil, they'd be in the streets screaming for increased spending in the ARPA-E and other agencies. But they're not. 
ARPA-E utilizes many of the same organizational elements that fostered the successful culture of innovation of DARPA at the Department of Defense. The program managers are given extraordinary autonomy and resources to pursue high-risk technological pathways, quickly assemble research teams and start and stop projects based on performance and relevance. 

While I don't oppose the efforts of this Administration to invest American blood and treasure to aid in the removal of a deranged despot, I do reject the notion by some that the pittance of funding for ARPA-E and other research agencies was wasteful. It should be multiplied by 100 in the hopes that we someday wean ourselves off fossil & nuclear energy.


Anonymous said...

The Libya campaign has to get its funds from somewhere! It is not growing on trees. Can't have everything which seems to be a problem with the democratic party.And the last time I looked Obama was a democrat. Boehner has questioned the wisdom in getting involved in Libya along with other democrats. So you cannot have both.Moan all you want but the federal government can no longer be the TREE.

Anonymous said...

I understand the priority comparison you are making here. The problem is the research agencies willing to engage these tasks are also offered more substantial funds to NOT develop alternative energy sources.
If these energy firms can spend millions in lobbying our representatives and fund fake think tanks, then why wouldn't they pay off scientists? Oh yeah, I forgot about the climate change deniers.
Get us off oil, coal & nuke and you'll see America prosper again.

Anonymous said...

First 11:11...I don't think you even read Mike's article. You jump right in with your "reduce government" talking points like a parrot.
Boener said nothing when "his" president took us into two battles without any funding. That creditcard payment is due. Boener is frantically underfunding any agencies that put Alternate Energy research near any breakthroughs. Follow the money.
Last...GE made record profits in 2010. We're all for making money, but GE paid $0 in taxes last year. You may not want to change the tax rate for the wealthy, but you could sure fix the tax code to stop that atrocity.

Anonymous said...

So were you also not opposed to the Bush Administration removal of the "deranged despot" in Iraq? An operation which by the way had more partner countries involved, and had an approval by congress to use force. Most importantly that administration actually admitted that we were there to take out the "deranged despot", whereas this administration will not admit to that or any other final goal except that we are there to protect the Lybian people. At least that is what I have heard from the White House Spokesman, because I have yet to hear it from the President.

My vote is that we let Hillary Clinton take over as President until the Lybian operation is over. She is the only one in the Administration or Congress that seems to know what's going on. Then again we should have elected her over the current buffoon in the first place.

Anonymous said...

12:38-That was then. This is now.
Two wrongs do not make a right. I am upset that we are involved in Libya but I am relieved to hear that NATO will be taking it over or at least going to be point on this matter. I was making the comment that the government cannot be everywhere in the citizens lives. We have to take some responsibility for our own actions and not always count on government to bail us out or fund programs. We can no longer afford every service coming down the pike. And most of the social programs were instituted by a democratic congress years ago and that needs to be overhauled.
And for the record I was in favor of taxing the millionaires.But not such a punitive tax. The current tax code needs major revamping.
I did read Mike's article.

signed: 11:11 Caw! Caw!

Anonymous said...

6:49, you may be relieved to hear that NATO is taking over. But as a former soldier that has served on NATO operations, I fear for our servicemen. Either we should be in charge or our servicemen shouldn't be there period. NATO is the slowest, most convoluted command there is. It is a cat fight between nations trying to prove how great they are by using other nation's resources. NATO was created by politicians as a tool to keep their hands clean. We have no defined goal by our commander and chief for Lybia therefore we should not be there.

As far as the money that Mike would like for his research.....Maybe if companies like Obama's beloved GE paid some taxes on their 5 billion dollars in US profits instead of taking a 3 billion dollar tax credit there would be plenty of money lying around to research what ever your little heart desires.

Anonymous said...

6:49 I can agree with you regarding Libya and NATO. You make a valid point regarding soldier's welfare. I am very aware of how a soldier's life is in jeopardy as I lost my cousin in Iraq in 2004. Never put the two together until you made your point regarding NATO. But we need to have other countries contribute to the financial cost of this military action and without NATO I am not sure how that is done.