As the Gulf of Mexico slowly recovers from BP’s disastrous oil spill, the U.S. Department of Energy has emerged with a way out of this mess: it has just designated the Center for Ocean Energy Technology at Florida Atlantic University as a national center for revving up the commercialization of wave power, tide power, and other forms of clean renewable energy from the ocean. The designation is fitting because years ago, Florida decided to develop its tourism and fishing industries rather than permit offshore oil drilling. The state has held firm despite increased pressure to lift the ban, as illustrated by a recent article by the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) headlined “Florida Would Gain $2.52 Billion from Offshore Drilling.”
Oh, the irony – the ATR post went up on April 19, 2010, just one day before BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig exploded. Experts are still toting up the long term damage to tourism and fishing industries in the affected states, which could top tens of billions, to say nothing of the human cost in stress and anxiety. In contrast, Florida avoided the worst impacts of the spill, and the new research center will help pump up its economy with millions in new research grants from the Department of Energy and other partners.
DARPA and Clean Ocean Energy
In addition to Department of Energy funding, the new Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Florida Atlantic University may also be a candidate for funds from the Department of Defense. Ocean energy has caught the eye of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency responsible for game-changing technology research. Its past projects include development of the Internet (yes, that Internet), and it has taken a role in funding wave power research and other transformative clean energy technologies. Its new sister agency, ARPA-E, is under the Department of Energy and it has been busily distributing millions for new energy technologies, which may also come into play.
Clean Energy and Green Jobs, Too
The new center at Florida Altantic joins a growing network of new clean marine energy research centers developed with federal funding, including one in the Pacific Northwest and one in Hawaii. Florida officials expect the center to generate new green jobs through the research component of the funding, and it will also develop future green jobs through an education component that trains workers for careers in marine energy. Federal funds for clean energy and green jobs are also going to work in the Gulf region through the Economic Development Administration, which just awarded a $3 million grant to Tulane University for RiverSphere, a rewewable energy center focused on developing hydrokintetic turbines that can draw clean power from slow moving currents such as those in the Mississippi River.
Image: Bird catching fish by minds-eye on flickr.com.
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