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Gates Pushes For Energy Spending

February 29, 2012

Bill Gates and Energy Secretary Steven Chu spent time at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, DC this week, advocating for higher levels of spending in energy. Currently ARPA-E, which funds high-risk energy projects, will be receiving $75M more in federal funding in the proposed budget for 2013. But according to Gates, this is still not enough.

Gates cautioned that people should not expect the same rapid development in energy that they have seen in other technology sectors, as energy requires higher-quality equipment to be developed and acquired. The quick rise of computer companies has “warped people’s minds about how quickly things can work,” according to the Microsoft founder, which rose from nothing to the largest software company in just a decade.

In 2010 the American Energy Innovation Council, of which Gates is a member, recommended that energy spending be more than tripled, from $5B to $16B. At this week’s summit, Gates asserted that energy programs should be getting at least twice the funding that they are currently receiving, due to the high failure rate of energy research programs (90% according to Gates) and the high importance of the issues they are solving, such as dependence on foreign oil and climate change.

In response to the Innovation Summit, the Pew Charitable Trusts will be building a new program to lobby for that $15B in energy funding. They will be hiring a full time staff to lobby for the effort, despite the current gridlock on Capitol Hill. Their primary goal will be to resist cuts to current energy funding, and to hopefully get it near the levels of Gates’ recommendation.

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