Murkowski: ARPA-E likely won't be funded at levels requested by Obama

But Murkowski offered what she called a “pragmatic assessment” of how the program would be funded in fiscal year 2012.

“First is the good news – it appears there is strong support within the 112th Congress to continue this program,” she said.

But she said the level of funding for ARPA-E in fiscal year 2012 is “uncertain,” even as President Obama called for significant increases in the program’s budget.

“Second, however, is the hard truth that every program must live within its means,” she said, adding later, “Many programs are never funded at their authorized levels, let alone higher.  At what level Congress will support funding for ARPA-E remains uncertain.”

The program received $400 million in initial funding in 2009, but was reauthorized at $306 million last year. Obama, in his fiscal year 2012 budget request, called for increasing the program’s budget to $550 million.

Murkowski also said Obama’s budget request gives preference to some technologies over others. The final budget passed by Congress should have a “greater balance of funding” for energy technologies, she said.

“[B]ecause it takes time to bring new technologies to market, we can’t simply cut out existing technologies altogether, as the President’s request seems to do.  Wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass all receive significant budget increases, but hydropower, nuclear, and natural gas are all in line to be cut.,” she said. “If we do complete a budget this year, I think it will reflect a re-organization and a greater balance of funding between many of those technologies.”

ARPA-E is based on the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which has been credited with spurring the development of the Internet.