While the fossil fuel industry has been busy destroying jobs in the Gulf Coast (to say nothing of destroying jobs in Appalachia), the federal government has been providing more support for creating more new green jobs in clean energy. This week, a group of small businesses, big companies, research universities, national laboratories and non-profits received $92 million in energy conservation grants to develop new technologies for powering American into a cleaner, safer, and far less riskier future.
The funds were distributed by ARPA-E, the Advanced Projects Research Agency – Energy. It’s the new civilian version of a Department of Defense program called DARPA, which provided the government funded research that created a wee bit of transformative technology called the Internet. Expectations are just as high for ARPA-E, if not higher. The director of the agency greets visitors to the ARPA-E website with a statement about our continued dependence on fossil fuels that was posted before the BP oil spill and has gained new urgency since then: “Business as usual is not an option, as the outcome will be devastating.”
New Energy Conservation Technologies and Federal Funding
ARPA-E was designed with the recognition that private financing can only go so far in developing some new technologies, because the payoff is such a long way off and the road to commercialization is so uncertain. With that in mind, this latest round of funding (ARPA-E has distributed $349 million to date) goes to three areas: modular energy storage systems that can be deployed in various scales throughout the grid to deliver a steady stream of energy from intermittent wind and solar sources; advanced components that reduce the considerable amount of energy that is currently lost from power conversion and switching; and radical new air conditioning systems that conserve energy without relying on coolants that contribute to global warming.
ARPA-E and Green Jobs
This round of funding is being distributed to project based in 18 states. Should the research pan out, it will lead to new green jobs in manufacturing, construction and installation. Yes, the funds are all coming out of our pockets (those of us who pay taxes that is), but that money is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions in taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels, and it’s all done without destroying jobs by blowing up entire mountains for coal, compromising water supplies for natural gas, and contaminating rich ocean and coastal ecosystems for oil.
Image: Rainbow and power lines by donjd2 on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.