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Published on December 3rd, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer


Clean Energy Push Rivals Manhattan Project: WSJ

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.


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 and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, 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.

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