Eco-Living Magazine

ARPA-E Director Majumdar Lays It Out Plain and Simple

Posted on the 11 January 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

ARPA-E Director Majumdar Lays It Out Plain and SimpleModeled after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency responsible for such technological innovations as the Internet and the stealth technology found in the F-117, the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE) was established to focus on creative “out-of-the-box” transformational energy research. Regarding our current energy situation, this quote from ARPA-E Director Dr. Arun Majumdar sums it up.

Our life in the U.S. today depends on access to energy. We don’t talk about it much, because we take it for granted, but let’s imagine for a second: What if our electricity were turned off for a day? For a week? What about a whole month? Our entire economy, and our lives, would come to a standstill. And what if our oil supply were turned off for a given period of time? We’d be in trouble. In the transportation sector, we have only one fuel—oil—and we import roughly half of it. Those imports cost us nearly one billion dollars a day. And while we may not run out of oil in the next several decades, access to it could be an issue, because of increasing demand around the world. Environmental impact is another issue, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

So whether we consider the input of fuel and electricity to our society, or the output of emissions, either way we have a long-term problem. On one hand, we’ve got economic and national security risks as they relate to our access to energy, and on the other hand, we’ve got environmental risks. That’s the paradigm that we live in, and in the long run, with the growing global population, it’s unsustainable.

There is really not too much more to say. Hence the push from the U.S. Department of Energy to use ARPA-e to push the boundaries of creativity, technology, and U.S. entrepreneurial might to come up with the next breakthroughs that will help remedy some of the ills discussed in the above quote. Take a look at Josh Wolfe’s interesting interview for Fortune with the ARPA-e Director for further details. As Dr. Majumdar makes clear, the U.S. has its work cut out for it:

“Back in the 1990’s, the US had 45% of the market share for solar photovoltaic manufacturing; we were the global leader. Right now, we have only 5-7% of the manufacturing. We invented the solar cell and the lithium-ion battery, yet in 2009, we manufactured only 1% of all lithium ion batteries. It’s staggering how we are falling behind in terms of global competition.”


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