ARPA-E answers questions about fullfilling mission

The House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing on January 24, 2012 to review the efforts of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), a Department of Energy (DOE) agency tasked with ‘funding cutting-edge energy research “in areas that industry by itself is not likely to undertake because of technical and financial uncertainty.”’

According to the Subcommittee press release, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Energy Inspector General’s (IG) office both issued reports that found ARPA-E funding practices and procedures appearing to veer from this mission.

In particular, the GAO’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Could Benefit from Information on Applicants’ Prior Funding reported that

12 of the 18 companies it identified as having received private sector funding prior to their ARPA-E award planned to use ARPA-E funding to either advance or accelerate prior-funded work. Further, Chairman Broun noted, “Similarly, a review of GAO work papers and publicly available information indicates numerous instances of overlap and duplication between ARPA-E and both public and private sector funding.”

In addition, DOE’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) released its own audit in August 2011 that focused on “whether ARPA-E implemented safeguards necessary to achieve its goals and objectives and to effectively deploy associated Recovery Act resources.”

Two of the three awards examined in detail by the IG had questionable costs of $280,387. Included among these costs were “meetings with bankers to raise capital” and a “fee to appear on a local television show.” Despite concerns regarding these uses of taxpayer dollars, the DOE IG noted in its report that such activities were cited as an allowable cost by ARPA-E under its Technology Transfer and Outreach policy.

ARPA-E, DOE IG, and GAO
ARPA-E, DOE IG, and GAO each testified.

Testifying were Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, U.S., Gregory Friedman, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Energy and Mr. Frank Rusco, Director, Energy and Science Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Roscoe Bartlett
Roscoe Bartlett
Dana Rohrabacher
Dana Rohrabacher

This particular Sub-committee has members such as Representatives Roscoe Bartlett, who has championed the Peak Oil issue in the House for years, though to deaf ears, and Dana Rohrabacher, who spoke out in support of Drs. Fleischmann and Ponstwenty-three years ago.

The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Paul Broun said in his statement that

“while it is clear many ARPA-E projects are pursuing high-quality, potentially transformative research that is too risky for private investment, reviews of GAO work papers and publicly available information reveal many exceptions to this practice, and raise questions regarding ARPA-E’s commitment to ‘carefully structure its projects to avoid any overlap with public and private sources of funding.’”

Specifically, the reports detail information showing that:

Numerous awardees indicated to GAO they would use ARPA-E funding to accelerate work they were already pursuing.

Numerous awardees’ proposals overlap and even duplicate efforts supported elsewhere in DOE and other Federal agencies.

The Administration touted ARPA-E awardees that received private sector funding after their ARPA-E award as proof that ARPA-E is working and successful; however, ten of these eleven recipients had also received significant private sector funding prior to receiving their award, raising questions regarding the degree to which the ARPA-E award itself was the driver of the follow-on funding.

Of the 44 identified small- and medium-size companies that received ARPA-E awards, a review of USASpending.gov shows that 26, or 59 percent, of these companies received other funding from the Federal government.

Over 60 percent of proposals funded by ARPA-E sought to advance technology to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 and beyond—the late stage technology demonstration and system commissioning and operation that is regularly supported by the private sector.

ARPA-E’s response, included in the GAO report, rationalized the actions.

ARPA-E response

The full Staff Report to Chairman Broun’s statement HERE
The GAO’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Could Benefit from Information on Applicants’ Prior Funding report is available HERE
The DOE IG’s Audit report is available HERE

The IG report states “The goals of ARPA-E are to enhance domestic economic security through the development of energy technologies and to ensure that the United States maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.”

The small amount of federal funding for cold fusion research has come largely from Department of Defense agencies. Civilian funding would come from the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E office, but so far they have refused to even acknowledge the two-decades long body of science, violating their stated mission.

At this point, it appears private sector funding will carry the development of this revolutionary new energy technology into the future – only after the first steps in commercial products begin appear on the market. Till then, the small, self-funded companies will continue to struggle in their effort to bring forth the answer to many of our energy problems in the form of real, usable generators.

And at that point, the DOE will realize they’ve been playing in Bonanzaland instead of the Space Age.

Cold Fusion Now!

Related Links

Members Question Oversight and Administration of ARPA-E House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight Press Release January 24, 2012

Letters to Congressional Sub-committees repeat hearings request by Ruby Carat November 13, 2011

Letter to the Secretary of Energy and others by Ruby Carat October 14, 2010

Letter to ARPA-E by Ruby Carat August 17, 2010 – one of our earliest efforts at contacting DOE!

“Suburbia lives imaginatively in Bonanza-land.” — Marshall McLuhan The Man, His Message CBC Archives


Contact the Committee on Science, Space and Technology Sub-Committee on Investigations and Oversight
Thank them for supporting new energy research
— and to put LENR funding at a priority.

Contact Representative Bartlett
Contact Representative Rohrabacher