The U.S. government is "crazy" when it comes to funding for energy research and development, according to high-tech titan Bill Gates. "It's crazy how little we are funding this energy stuff," Gates today told an audience at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) conference near Washington, D.C. "Funding for energy [research] in the U.S. is underfunded by a factor of two."
Gates, a founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, was a featured speaker at the DOE's Energy Innovation Summit, designed to highlight the work of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which aims to move new energy technologies from the lab bench to the market. For nearly an hour, Gates discussed energy challenges with DOE Secretary Steven Chu in an informal "fireside chat" moderated by John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and now chair of the Center for American Progress, in Washington, D.C .
Gates's call for increased spending on energy R&D echoed recommendations he made late last year as a member of a blue-ribbon panel of U.S. business leaders convened by the Washington-based American Energy Innovation Council. That group noted that the U.S. government spent about $5 billion on energy research in 2010, compared with about $30 billion for medical research and over $80 billion for defense R&D.