Energy Dept. Gambles $500 Million Of Our Money On Projects The Private-Sector Won’t Touch

August 15, 2012 - 2:57 PM

So, why does the Energy Department have an agency created to gamble away our money - $500 million to date - on schemes it admits are “too risky for private-sector investment”?

On August 2, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the latest “investment” of its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) project: $43 million in funding for the development of energy storage technology.

According to a DOE press release, ARPA-E has already doled out $500 million on projects that no self-respecting private business would gamble on (emphasis added):

“ARPA-E was launched in 2009 to seek out transformational, breakthrough technologies that are too risky for private-sector investment but have the potential to translate science into quantum leaps in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and have large commercial impacts.”

So, the implications of this program’s mission statement seem to be:

  • That the money we pay in taxes is, somehow, more expendable than private-sector money,
  • That the government has the right to risk our money on schemes that no prudent private-sector investor or businessman (seeking to maximize profit and minimize risk) would consider,
  • That the government can afford to make investments that fail, since it’s playing with our money and can always raise taxes.

“Prior to today’s announcement, ARPA-E has attracted over 5,000 applications from research teams, which have resulted in approximately 180 groundbreaking projects worth nearly $500 million,” the press release states.

DOE Deputy Press Secretary Keri Fulton confirmed to “The Right Views” that the program’s gambling tab has now surpassed the half-billion dollar mark: “ARPA-E has provided over $500 million in funding to groundbreaking projects.”

That’s a half-billion dollars, in just four years.

DOE Secretary Steven Chu has said that the latest recipients of ARPA-E funding “could revolutionize” the way Americans use and store energy.

Unfortunately, “could” does not mean the same thing as “will.” Enter, the “too risky” component of ARPA-E’s mission statement.

So, here we are - a nation that’s $15 trillion in debt, running a trillion dollar deficit, and heading for a “fiscal cliff.”

Can we really afford for the government to be risking our money on schemes that private-sector investors shun?

See more "Right Views, Right Now" opinion and analysis.