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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House is taking the first steps to creating a new cross-agency federal R&D organization for climate technologies, but there's plenty we still don't know about the effort.

Why it matters: Biden's overall climate plan calls for a much more muscular federal role in scaling up research and commercialization of next-wave tech, even as it looks to speed deployment of existing low-carbon sources.

Driving the news: Thursday brought the announcement of a "Climate Innovation Working Group."

  • The working group is co-led by the White House offices of Domestic Climate Policy, Science of Technology and Policy, and Management and Budget.
  • Part of its mission is to "advance" plans to stand up Biden's proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate, or ARPA-C.

The big picture: The White House said the innovation group will focus on advancing and lowering costs of a wide set of technologies including...

  • Carbon-neutral construction materials
  • Much cheaper energy storage systems
  • Carbon-free hydrogen
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration that does not use planet-warming gases
  • Zero-carbon heat and industrial processes for heavy industries like cement
  • Advanced soil management and other farming practices that remove CO2
  • Ways to retrofit existing industrial and power plants with CO2 capture

What we don't know: If the White House will ask Congress to formally create and fund ARPA-C, which would give it more permanence if lawmakers do it. A White House official said, "more specifics are forthcoming."

The intrigue: ARPA-C may sound familiar because of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) created under 2007 legislation and got its first funding in 2009 (and itself is modeled after the military's DARPA). Similarities between the Energy Department's ARPA-E and the ARPA-C concept extend beyond just the sound.

  • "The precise boundaries between the two ARPAs aren’t entirely clear," MIT Technology Review reports.
  • "[S]ome energy observers are confused about why the administration wants to expend political capital trying to set up and fund a new research agency rather than focusing on boosting capital for existing programs," the piece notes.

Speaking of ARPA-E, yesterday the Energy Department announced a $100 million solicitation for proposals, calling it the "first of billions of dollars of DOE R&D opportunities to be announced this year."

Go deeper: Biden ushers in historical turn on clean energy and climate change

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Shell peers into a future with less oil

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that its oil production peaked in 2019 and is expected to decline by roughly 1%-2% annually as the company diversifies into lower-carbon energy products and business lines.

Why it matters: It signals how some of the world's most powerful oil-and-gas companies are positioning themselves for a world taking climate change more seriously and responding to calls from investors and activists to do more.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

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