The Science of Sustainability

Feds Pay For Out-of-the-Box Energy Ideas

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Renewable Oil From Algae

Renewable Oil From Algae

As gas prices continue to rise, alternative fuels are getting renewed attention. And that’s where the government’s biggest incubator in clean energy comes in. Like DARPA does for military technology, "ARPA-E" funds early stage, high-risk research. It has a more cumbersome name, "Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy."

The program is looking for the next Google in clean technology and it may come from innovations such as cryogenic carbon capture for coal plants or transportation fuels from algae. QUEST’s Andrea Kissack talks with Arun Majumdar, former deputy director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who now heads up ARPA-E, about the long path toward a clean energy future.

Majumdar says ARPA-E is pre-venture, early research and describes some projects the agency is funding that show great promise, including advances in electric car battery research at two Bay Area start ups and promising biofuels research in Colorado. Majumdar is also the second man at the Department of Energy and credits the Recovery Act for adding new jobs and helping jump start already existing technologies. The DOE, however, has been under attack since solar manufacturer Solyndra filed for bankrupcy. Majumdar talks about the federal loan guarantee program and also responds to possible trade sanctions on solar panels coming from China. Finally, he discusses the big breakthroughs needed to make cleaner energy viable.

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Category: Biology, Energy, Engineering, Environment, News, Radio

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About the Author ()

Andrea is KQED's Senior Science Editor . Andrea was born in Los Angeles and discovered radio news through listening to her college radio station. With a curious mind and a love for telling stories, she set off for Tampa where she landed her first job as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. After three years reporting in an unbearably humid climate and a brief stint as a miscast opera reporter, Andrea returned to L.A. to work for public radio, then for television news and finally as a reporter for CBS radio. Andrea has been at KQED for over twelve years, working first as a producer for Forum, and then as the senior producer for The California Report. She is now KQED's Senior Science and Environment Editor and narrates the QUEST television program. Andrea says she feels lucky to cover emerging science and environmental trends in a place where geek is chic.