It is important for the federal government to continue to play a role in energy development, said a trio of speakers from different backgrounds at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit.
National security and energy security go hand-in-hand, retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones said at the conference in Maryland. The U.S. must strive to be energy secure because enemies have repeatedly targeted its fuel sources, said Jones, a former national security adviser.
Energy is a target because of the “enormous power it confers on those who have it and the vulnerability it spells for those who do not,” he said.
Jones said it is troubling that decades after the Arab oil embargo, the country still has no sound energy policy or a single senior official in charge of steering energy policy. That’s the reason his national security consultancy, Jones Group International, is recommending the creation of a national energy council, headed by the secretary of the Energy Department, as well as a position of senior director of energy on the National Security Council. These moves would stabilize energy policy and ensure that it remains a focus in national security policy, Jones said.
On the innovation level, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., argued that the federal government and private businesses can accomplish more when they partner.
The ARPA-E program has played an important role in energy innovation, and the spirit of innovation has always been what drives America, Coons said. Even with Congress as polarized as it is and with sequestration looming, energy innovation can be a bipartisan issue, Coons said.
“It has never been more important to prioritize investments and innovations and, in particular, to lift up and to strengthen what ARPA-E is capable of doing,” he said.
Coons said he has partnered with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in sponsoring a bill that would extend the master limited partnership tax structure, which is available to traditional energy forms, to renewables and biofuels. MLPs are taxed as a partnership, but ownership is traded like corporate stock, allowing fundraising ability “comparable” to a corporation, Coons said.
DuPont Chairwoman and CEO Ellen Kullman said it is important to ensure that the world’s energy mix is diverse, sustainable and accessible, and adding partners is key to innovation. Value-chain collaboration helped DuPont bring a 30 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic-ethanol facility to reality. The facility is under construction in Nevada, Iowa.
The company partnered with farmers to better understand the economics of transportation and storage of feedstock that will be used to produce ethanol. DuPont also partnered with national laboratories, universities and startups to develop steps to convert feedstock, Kullman said. The partners have all invested in the project and will seek a return from the initiative, which is expected to aid economic growth. ARPA-E facilitates innovation and collaboration that make such partnerships happen.