In 2007, the America Competes Act created a new agency called ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects-Energy) in order to fund and foster breakthrough energy technologies. Since then, one of us, Mark Muro, has consistently endorsed the agency’s vision and strategy. Staffed on a temporary basis by scientists with extraordinary talent for both invention and commercialization, ARPA-E functions like a venture-capital firm with a public-goods focus. This allows it to fund research and development projects for which the potential benefits to humankind, the U.S.
In 2001, an entrepreneur named Tom Casten traveled down to southern Louisiana, near the small town of Franklin, with a clever idea. For decades, the area had sustained a pair of chemical plants that produced carbon black, a grimy powder used in printer ink and tire rubber. But the owner of one of the plants, Cabot Corporation, was struggling to compete against cheap tire imports from abroad, and desperately seeking ways to cut costs. That’s where Casten came in. He pointed out that the gas left over from the carbon-black process was just getting wasted--burned off and flared up into the sky.
Jude Wanniski, who does not bother with the pretense of false modesty, calls himself "the most influential political economist of the last generation." He's right, too. This is a man who single-handedly transformed the discombobulated murmurings of a fringe sect into the central idea of modern economic conservatism. The idea was called supply-side economics, and it was, not very long ago, considered antithetical to every principle of conservative economic theory. Wanniski's pet idea gave Republicans, and conservatives, what they had been lacking for fifty years: a taxing policy that could comp