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Published on December 3rd, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

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Clean Energy Push Rivals Manhattan Project: WSJ

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December 3rd, 2009 by
 

A once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science is being spurred by the Obama administration’s push to solve the nation’s energy problems, in a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project.

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This summary comes, not from just another renewable energy blogger like myself, overwhelmed by the gushing hose of news out of Steven Chu’s newly invigorated Department of Energy, but from a surprising source. The Wall Street Journal.

“The government’s multi-billion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. After many years of flat budgets, these labs are ramping up to develop new electricity sources, trying to build more-efficient cars and addressing climate change.”

For example, the last time Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Lab saw this level of funding was during the last big renewable energy push – in the Carter era. It had initially been one of three labs set up to work on the Atom Bomb, during the Second World War.

When the Reagan administration came in, renewable energy research was once more cut. All the early research advantage that the US had in solar and early electric car R&D went overseas to Japan.

The Obama administration has once more increased the funding for the Department of Energy, back up to comparable levels from the Carter administration:

As someone who covers renewable energy news; I see an overwhelming number of innovative projects now being funded by Steven Chu’s Nobel-prizewinner directed Department of Energy.

Some examples:

Metal-Air Battery With 11 Times the Energy at Half the Cost?

DOE Using CO2 to Extract More Geothermal Energy

Top ARPA-E Funding to Renewable Storage in Liquid Battery

ARPA-E to Pump Money into Nocera Biomimic Photosynthesis

California to Get Smart Grid Funds to Bottle Wind which was part of

Obama Announces New Recovery Act Smart Grid Funding — $3.4 Billion

South Carolina to Lead US With $98 Million World-Class Wind Center

To Wrap Around that New Battery technology, Cheaper, Lighter Cars From Carbon Fiber

Govt Picks a Winner: Tesla Gets $465 Million

President Obama: $800 Million for Biofuels and Flex-Fuel Vehicles

President Obama Announces $2.4 Billion in Funding for Electric Vehicles

Solyndra Solar Wins First DOE Funding which was just the first solar investment, then:

US Department of Energy Dishes Out $87 Million for Solar Technology and Deployment

Obama Unveils Largest-Ever Investment in Advanced Batteries

Another Day, Another Humungous Renewable Energy Funding Announcement From DOE

Obama Announces US $467M in Stimulus Funding for Geothermal and Solar Energy Projects

Obama Commits $13 billion for High Speed Rail

In this downturn, more VC funding news has come from the Department of Energy, than from Silicon Valley. It is not often that a renewable energy writer like me will agree with the fossil-fuel-friendly Wall Street Journal, but this level of science funding truly is generation-changing.

Let’s hope, when the next administration takes over; that we don’t throw away our current round of advanced research, like we did the last time after the last push in the ’70s. We Americans suffer from a swinging political pendulum that has hurt us before.

Image: Science Careers

Source: Wall Street Journal

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky

    You can check out recovery.gov to see exactly where funds are going.

    Renewable energy companies ARE getting funds – that’s how they are doing all the stuff in the linked stories – from universities getting research to Tesla getting factory building money.

  • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky

    You can check out recovery.gov to see exactly where funds are going.

    Renewable energy companies ARE getting funds – that’s how they are doing all the stuff in the linked stories – from universities getting research to Tesla getting factory building money.

  • Brett Rasmussen

    @Harry Gibson – Wow, I’d like to be able to have a conversation with you. I’m afraid you’ve missed the point (and the spirit of renewability) BIG TIME!

  • Brett Rasmussen

    @Harry Gibson – Wow, I’d like to be able to have a conversation with you. I’m afraid you’ve missed the point (and the spirit of renewability) BIG TIME!

  • Henry Gibson

    There is no renewable energy. Almost all the energy that humans use comes from the sun which is not renewable; billions of tons of hydrogen are wasted to provide light for the earth. The sun produces enough nuclear radiation that a man on the moon could get killed during a solar storm when not protected by a hundred miles of air. If trees and corn and grass are considered renewable energy so must coal and oil which were once trees, grasses and algae.

    There is not enough fertile cropable land area on the earth to produce enough grass to be changed to oil to match the consumption of the United States.

    Most of the uranium 235 present at the creation of the earth then gathered from exploding neutron stars has decayed into lead; The human race might as well use it in nuclear reactors rather than letting it go to waste. Uranium 238 and thorium change into lead far more slowly but they also will be wasted if not used.

    The conversion equipment to convert uranium energy into electricity is far more compact, requires no large collection areas and does not require either cheap or expensive electricity storage devices for night or cloudy weather. It would be cheaper even to put nuclear reactors in space and beam the power to earth than to put solar collectors into space to do the same thing. With nuclear fuel economy, the amount of nuclear byproducts generated for a US resident’s lifetime use of energy would only fill a standard soft drink can.

    All people, animals and especially plants have alway been radio-active because of the potassium in their bodies which amount to about 25 internal nuclear explosions per pound per second, and life processes know how to deal with it and more because it has been going on since life started on earth. We can deal with the immeasurable addition to radio-activity that a thousand times more nuclear power plants would bring to our lives because it would be far less than the additional radiation received by living in Denver rather than New Jersey. We can also figure out a way to mix a can full of atoms with enough dirt so that it does not represent more of a hazzard than a car ride. ..HG..

  • Henry Gibson

    There is no renewable energy. Almost all the energy that humans use comes from the sun which is not renewable; billions of tons of hydrogen are wasted to provide light for the earth. The sun produces enough nuclear radiation that a man on the moon could get killed during a solar storm when not protected by a hundred miles of air. If trees and corn and grass are considered renewable energy so must coal and oil which were once trees, grasses and algae.

    There is not enough fertile cropable land area on the earth to produce enough grass to be changed to oil to match the consumption of the United States.

    Most of the uranium 235 present at the creation of the earth then gathered from exploding neutron stars has decayed into lead; The human race might as well use it in nuclear reactors rather than letting it go to waste. Uranium 238 and thorium change into lead far more slowly but they also will be wasted if not used.

    The conversion equipment to convert uranium energy into electricity is far more compact, requires no large collection areas and does not require either cheap or expensive electricity storage devices for night or cloudy weather. It would be cheaper even to put nuclear reactors in space and beam the power to earth than to put solar collectors into space to do the same thing. With nuclear fuel economy, the amount of nuclear byproducts generated for a US resident’s lifetime use of energy would only fill a standard soft drink can.

    All people, animals and especially plants have alway been radio-active because of the potassium in their bodies which amount to about 25 internal nuclear explosions per pound per second, and life processes know how to deal with it and more because it has been going on since life started on earth. We can deal with the immeasurable addition to radio-activity that a thousand times more nuclear power plants would bring to our lives because it would be far less than the additional radiation received by living in Denver rather than New Jersey. We can also figure out a way to mix a can full of atoms with enough dirt so that it does not represent more of a hazzard than a car ride. ..HG..

  • http://thewealthofplanets.blogspot.com ike solem

    Ummmm…

    “This summary comes, not from just another renewable energy blogger like myself, overwhelmed by the gushing hose of news out of Steven Chu’s newly invigorated Department of Energy…”

    1) The DOE is back coal-to-gasoline projects as well as tar sands and shale oils. How does this fit with any program to reduce carbon emissions? [SK: There is still a Fossil Energy dept at DOE, but now it funds CO2 reduction innovations like this: http://cleantechnica.com/2009/10/04/doe-introduces-big-oil-to-new-energy-source-waste-heat-geothermal/

    2) Renewable energy loans have been held up by the DOE, leading to numerous complaints from renewable energy producers. [SK??? Not from what I hear - I interview RE co.s for a living]

    3) The DOE public-private proposals are partnerships between specific companies and the DOE – and those specific companies will gain exclusive control over any patents generated, correct? Thus leaving the non-politically connected out in the cold. [ No, many patents are held by the university where the funded research began that generated the spin-off company]

    4) The DOE has refused to initiate a program of funding solar, wind and photosynthetic fuel research at our nation’s universities – when what is needed is something like the NIH or NSF – and independent agency with a multi-billion dollar budget that funds researchers at public and private universities and is not under the control of political appointees. [ This is nonsense. Nearly all the funding is for university level R&D doing exactly that - funding innovations - read the links]

  • http://thewealthofplanets.blogspot.com ike solem

    Ummmm…

    “This summary comes, not from just another renewable energy blogger like myself, overwhelmed by the gushing hose of news out of Steven Chu’s newly invigorated Department of Energy…”

    1) The DOE is back coal-to-gasoline projects as well as tar sands and shale oils. How does this fit with any program to reduce carbon emissions? [SK: There is still a Fossil Energy dept at DOE, but now it funds CO2 reduction innovations like this: http://cleantechnica.com/2009/10/04/doe-introduces-big-oil-to-new-energy-source-waste-heat-geothermal/

    2) Renewable energy loans have been held up by the DOE, leading to numerous complaints from renewable energy producers. [SK??? Not from what I hear - I interview RE co.s for a living]

    3) The DOE public-private proposals are partnerships between specific companies and the DOE – and those specific companies will gain exclusive control over any patents generated, correct? Thus leaving the non-politically connected out in the cold. [ No, many patents are held by the university where the funded research began that generated the spin-off company]

    4) The DOE has refused to initiate a program of funding solar, wind and photosynthetic fuel research at our nation’s universities – when what is needed is something like the NIH or NSF – and independent agency with a multi-billion dollar budget that funds researchers at public and private universities and is not under the control of political appointees. [ This is nonsense. Nearly all the funding is for university level R&D doing exactly that - funding innovations - read the links]

  • http://thewealthofplanets.blogspot.com ike solem

    Ummmm…

    “This summary comes, not from just another renewable energy blogger like myself, overwhelmed by the gushing hose of news out of Steven Chu’s newly invigorated Department of Energy…”

    1) The DOE is back coal-to-gasoline projects as well as tar sands and shale oils. How does this fit with any program to reduce carbon emissions? [SK: There is still a Fossil Energy dept at DOE, but now it funds CO2 reduction innovations like this: http://cleantechnica.com/2009/10/04/doe-introduces-big-oil-to-new-energy-source-waste-heat-geothermal/

    2) Renewable energy loans have been held up by the DOE, leading to numerous complaints from renewable energy producers. [SK??? Not from what I hear - I interview RE co.s for a living]

    3) The DOE public-private proposals are partnerships between specific companies and the DOE – and those specific companies will gain exclusive control over any patents generated, correct? Thus leaving the non-politically connected out in the cold. [ No, many patents are held by the university where the funded research began that generated the spin-off company]

    4) The DOE has refused to initiate a program of funding solar, wind and photosynthetic fuel research at our nation’s universities – when what is needed is something like the NIH or NSF – and independent agency with a multi-billion dollar budget that funds researchers at public and private universities and is not under the control of political appointees. [ This is nonsense. Nearly all the funding is for university level R&D doing exactly that - funding innovations - read the links]

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