A Year of Stimulus for High Tech

A big chunk of February's $787 billion federal stimulus package--about $100 billion--is devoted to discovering, developing, and deploying new technologies ("Can Technology Save the Economy?"). But spending that money takes time, and, as the year closes, much of it has only just started to trickle out into the hands of researchers and industry.

The stimulus package was designed to boost technology in several key areas. It was intended to promote the adoption of electronic medical records, which could help patients in several ways ("The Benefits of Electronic Health Records" and "Prescription: Networking"). About $20 billion has been allocated so far and, of that, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced $1.2 billion in grants to develop electronic records.

The Recovery Act also allocated some $7.4 billion for increasing rural broadband Internet service. Little has happened so far, although the White House did announce $182 million for 18 projects this month. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which was given $2.5 billion for broadband, hasn't yet published targets for distributing its money. And of the nearly $5 billion for broadband allocated to the U.S. Department of Commerce, several million has been awarded for preliminary studies, such as "to collect and verify the availability, speed, and location of broadband." The White House promises that broadband grants will total $2 billion in the next 75 days. The lion's share of stimulus funding for technology development--$60 billion--went to energy, largely in the form of grants and tax credits designed to spur renewable energy and energy efficiency. The bill was a windfall for the U.S. Department of Energy, which received $39 billion in addition to its annual budget of approximately $25 billion. The department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which typically gets less than $2 billion a year, won $16.8 billion, and has spent about half a billion so far. Almost all of that, $367 million, has gone to weatherization projects, which don't do much to advance technology, but could save a lot of energy. Some $2 billion was allocated for advancing battery manufacturing, which will be key to setting up an advanced battery industry in the United States. About a billion has been awarded so far, although that money has yet to be spent.

A new agency that received its first funding under the bill, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), has already announced some award recipients. Of the $400 million the agency received, it's announced awards totaling $150 million, and has started taking applications for a second round of awards ("DOE's Agency Learns from Some Early Mistakes").

ARPA-E has funded several technologies with the potential to bring about big changes to the energy landscape. For instance, carbon nanotube ultracapacitors that could cut the cost of hybrids ("Ultracapacitor Startup Gets a Big Boost"), and carbon nanotube membranes that could make capturing carbon dioxide cheaper ("Carbon Capture with Nanotubes"). Another project could lead to a new kind of coal plant that doesn't release carbon dioxide, and yet doesn't raise the price of electricity ("Using Rust to Capture CO2 from Coal Plants").

Several new battery technologies could have a similarly transformative impact. New sodium-ion batteries ("Sodium-Ion Cells for Cheap Energy Storage") and liquid batteries could make storing renewable energy affordable, while metal-air batteries offer the promise of cheap electric vehicles that can go hundreds of miles on a single charge ("Betting on a Metal-Air Battery Breakthrough"). The DOE's Office of Science is also funding a number of programs exploring cutting-edge energy science, and has announced $277 million in stimulus funding for 46 "Energy Frontier Research Centers."

Meanwhile, the DOE has started to issue some of the $125 billion in loans and loan guarantees it's in charge of. For example, solar panel maker Solyndra received a $535 loan guarantee. The DOE has announced a total of $8.5 billion in loans for developing advanced vehicles. These will go to Ford, Nissan, and two small companies: the electric car maker Tesla Motors and the plug-in hybrid maker Fisker Automotive.

By Kevin Bullis


(Please re-post)
Less than 20 car companies applied for $25 BILLION DOLLARS in taxpayer money managed by a certain smug group of people at DOE in order to get loans to make green cars for Americans’. This was not all of DOE that did bad things, just a private cadre of men.

There was enough money to help every single one of the car companies that applied. The administrators applied their interpretations of the law in order to benefit the large lobby group-related firms and avoided every one of the “unconnected” companies.

The amount of lobby and influence money spent is in direct ratio to the amount of money awarded.

The smaller companies, due to lower overhead, could have dramatically more productive results with the money than the large burdened companies yet the money was given out based on political career advantages rather technology advantages.

All of the people that reviewed the applications had political and financial connections to GM, Ford, Chrysler and the large Detroit recipients.

Each of those smaller American companies had technology and resources that presented a strong economic threat, if they got the loans, to the large politically connected companies that did receive funds.

Some of the companies that have gotten money have backed out of making the electric cars they said they would make. But they still get to keep the money.

The Section 136 Law was created by the lobbyists for GM, Ford & Chrysler when they saw that they were about to go bankrupt and wanted to tap into additional taxpayer dollars by claiming the money was going to be used for electric cars in order to win rapid support for Section 136 by tugging at heartstrings. In retrospect, the money mostly went to gasoline car projects.

Some of the companies that got the money have already wasted more money than other companies applied for as their total request.

Some of the companies that got taxpayer loan money are not even American companies and/or are doing their manufacturing offshore with non-American employees.

The decision about who would get money was made in 2008 by a private group who then pretended there was a lengthy review throughout 2009 but in fact, the money was pre-wired for a select few.

All of the things that the rejected small companies (who did not pay lobby fees) were rejected for, were the same things that the insider big companies were doing.

Federal funding may be encouraging a move toward EHR, but there's more to it than just installing systems. How can healthcare data pooling lead to a better system? More at http:// www.healthcaretownhall.com /?p=1903

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