WV can profit from fighting climate crisis

Appearing in the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Sunday, September 8, 2019   Op-ED by Logan Thorne, project director for the WV Center on Climate Change

Defeating the climate crisis is necessary — unless we want to lock-in scorching heat waves, rampant insect-borne disease and thousands more flooding deaths.

To defeat the growing crisis, we need solutions. And one of the best solutions for defeating the climate crisis is innovation — through massive research and development in new energy technologies. And, right now, the United States Congress is considering legislation to increase funding for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy-E.

ARPA-E pays researchers at places like West Virginia’s National Energy Technology Laboratory to develop high-risk/high-gain technologies that can help transform the energy sector. Increased funding would effectively secure more West Virginia jobs and transform our ability to research global energy solutions right here at home.

ARPA-E’s impressive track record now includes over $2.9 billion in private sector follow-on funding for a group of 145 projects since the agency’s founding in 2009. Equally notable, 76 projects have formed new companies and 131 projects have shown enough promise to result in partnerships with other government agencies for further development.

Yet to date, ARPA-E has only been able to support about 1 percent of the proposals submitted for its open funding opportunities, and 12 percent of the proposals submitted for its focused programs, even though the number of promising, high-quality proposals that the agency has received is many times higher.

House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, has introduced the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act, House Resolution 4091. The bill authorizes ARPA-E for 5 years, up to $1 billion in 2024.

Organizations who support Johnson’s ARPA-E bill include: the American Chemical Society, American Council for Capital Formation, American Council on Renewable Energy, Association of American Universities, Association of Public & Land-grant Universities, BPC Action (Bipartisan Policy Center’s Government Affairs Arm), the Carbon Utilization Research Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, ConservAmerica, Council on Competitiveness, Energy Sciences Coalition, the Energy Storage Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Entrepreneurs, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers — USA, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, National Association of Manufacturers, National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Energy Institute, Optical Society of America, and the Task Force on American Innovation.

That’s a lot of true, bipartisan support for innovative legislation that will grow West Virginia’s economy and help maintain America’s role as an energy provider. And it is obvious, I believe, that all West Virginia members of Congress should join this effort. Our economic and environmental future is at stake.