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  • Friedman's Unconvincing Energy Flip Flop

    Shilling for his new global warming book on Meet the Press yesterday Thomas Friedman told Tom Brokaw:

    Well, I’m against Manhattan Project because this problem is so large in terms of scale. I think it’s got to be like IT. We need 100,000 people experimenting in 100,000 garages coming up with 100,000 ideas, 100 of which might be promising, 10 might work, and two might be the next green guru.

    Friedman’s denunciation of a ‘Manhattan Project’ approach to energy policy is a bit of an evolution for the New York Times columnist who once said that if he were president would “have rallied the nation for real energy conservation and initiated a Manhattan Project for alternative energies.” But later in the same MTP interview, Friedman’s big government instincts just can’t help themselves. He told Brokaw: “You know, what we need today, Tom–we had a space race with the Russians, who could be the first to put a man on the moon. What we need today is an Earth race with China, with Europe, with Japan, to see who can create the technologies to make the Earth livable for man.” Sounds like Friedman’s calling for a new Apollo project to us.

    But as Popular Mechanics editor in chief James Meigs explains, government directed Apollo/Manhattan approaches to alternative energy are not the answer:

    Yes, the moon landing was a towering achievement. But, as aerospace analyst Rand Simberg notes, it was also a “well-defined engineering challenge, and a problem susceptible to having huge bales of money thrown at it.” Retooling America’s energy infrastructure is far more complex. It isn’t one challenge, it’s thousands—a total overhaul of the American lifestyle involving deep changes in every home, vehicle and business in the country.

    Meigs concludes:

    The government can play a role in advancing alternative energy. Tax incentives and regulatory relief can help. So can research money channeled through the National Science Foundation or DARPA. But let’s tread lightly when it comes to giving handouts to corporations in the name of research.

    With oil trading at far over $100 a barrel, companies already have incentives to develop alternatives—the market will reward breakthroughs handsomely. In fields ranging from batteries to biofuels, there are hundreds of promising research projects under way. Some will succeed, some won’t. But we need scientists, entrepreneurs and consumers to pick the winners, not politicians. Finding solutions to our energy problems isn’t rocket science. It’s a lot tougher.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Friedman's Unconvincing Energy Flip Flop

    1. Sandy in Sun Lakes A says:

      It seems to me that this is clearly a free market issue wherein we let the entrepreneurs and inventors do their thing. If we get the government involved, we are doomed. Like Pres. of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus is saying, the environmentalists are the new Communists who are using this scare to take control of our lives.

    2. Richard, Michigan says:

      I'm not a fan of big government, but I struggle w/ how business can solve any problem that requires a long term vision and requires any amount of altruism to accomplish. Business leadership manages quarter to quarter and works to satisfy their shareholders – which usually coincides with their own highly lucrative short term interests. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is a 3rd alternative so it will likely need to be some balance of government vision powered by business creativity.

    3. Mike, Ojai, Californ says:

      I watched Friedman's interview, and I wondered if it was really him when he mentioned '100,000 garages'. But sure enough, he twice let slip the words 'carbon tax', with a solemn nod to an understanding Tom Brokaw.

      The incentives to the oil companies should be terminated, and the alternatives should be encouraged – through private investment.

    4. Rod Adams says:

      Speaking as an energy entrepreneur who believes that there are several very good new energy systems in development, I have to disagree with Richard. Not all businesses are focused on quarterly profits. For some of us, the only shareholders we need to please are fellow visionaries with long term views.

      I founded Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. more than 15 years ago and have worked very hard to develop a workable power system that can meet customer demands. We believe we are close. We also recognize that there are several worthy competitors that are aiming for similar opportunities for small, simple nuclear fission power plants including Toshiba, NuScale and Hyperion. By the end of the month, I expect to hear of at least one more entry into the race.

      I will grant that large, well-established firms are often run by professional managers without much vision, but entrepreneurs are normally motivated by far different goals.

      For those of us working in nuclear fission power, the very best thing that the government could do would be to lower the barriers to entry that it has spent 60 years erecting in the way of progress in our particular energy specialty.

      The physical advantages of that form of energy far outweigh those of any other competitor. No other source is as concentrated, emission free, or abundant. No other energy source can even be measured on the same scale.

      Unfortunately, current laws and rules require us to plan on spending about $100 million in license application and review fees to obtain approval to build a demonstration unit. That obstacle is especially galling since our design is based on systems that have been proven to be passively safe in prototypes and demonstrations over a 40 year period.

      The main beneficiaries of the nuclear licensing fee rules are the established fossil fuel companies that also like to dabble – at taxpayer expense – in such weak and diffuse energy sources as biofuels, the sun and the wind.

      The last thing we need are subsidies for government favored technologies that help enormous energy companies like Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron maintain and further entrench their energy supply dominance.

    5. Dave, laguna niguel, says:

      The government needs to get out of Energy! By what right do they tax gasoline?! Our government has never created anything other than chaos and confusion, not to mention a huge loss of MONEY, and that would be MONEY FROM THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER! Now look at what they(the government)are hanging around our necks with Fannie/Ginnie Mae!? Need I even bring up social security and medicare?! We are in a huge downward spiral thanks to SOCIALIST DEMOCRATS! When will the knuckleheads in this country learn, socialism has NEVER worked and it NEVER will! You simply can not tax the producers in this country out of existence! You can not kill independence, creativity, the will to succeed, and entrepeneurship and expect to flourish. Canada is a supreme example! What is created or developed there? Right, NOTHING! How about CUBA? NOTHING except poverty! And now the idiot democrats are pushing for a communist as president!!!!! Reagan must be ready to jump out of his grave! Not to mention every other president who fought against communism. You democrats are a sick bunch of America haters. Actually you are a bunch of illegals and European/socialist transplants who are taking over our country through voting blocks! America, you are allowing your country to be taken over!

    6. Dave, laguna niguel, says:

      A government is a collection of individuals who know nothing about free-enterprize, commercial/industrial management, financial accounting and fiduciary responsibilities, allegiance to TAXPAYERS(who pay the bills for everyone and everything!),protecting freedom and individualism. Sarah Palin is a throwback to the rugged individuals who built this country into the powerhouse it once was. All it took was a bunch of socialists/liberals to start tearing us down with their disastrous solutions to environmental lies and distortions and now we have an economy in a tailspin and morons want to blame Bush because our energy prduction/new building is the lowest of any industrialized nation! And now we have Obama who's prescription for high gas prices is a tire pressure guage! We are in deep do-do!

    7. Don Uthole, Canada says:

      "If we get the government involved, we are doomed."

      Government sponsor's research all the time. We call this University. While I believe in small government, historical need sometimes trumps ideology. For example in war time, we don't leave that task to business. We are at war with the Middle East and we need to destroy the oil economy in order to remove their grip on us, but also to destroy their ability sponsor jihadist ideology in the world.

      Hundreds of billions needs to be spent on making North America energy independent and also giving the world an alternative to oil. The climate change hysteria might be correct, but the geopolitical implications of our world fighting over a dwindling energy supply are more frightening.

      We've got a huge ball of fusion dumping an amazing amount of energy on our planet. We just need to find a way to get it. If we don't our businesses will suffer under the load of rising energy costs and our freedoms may be lost by the spread of political Islam.

      Last, remember that lots of other discoveries come from what appears to be wasted research. Computers developed from speculative mathematics and in about 50 years a whole new economy developed. No business would have invested in speculative mathematical research. Folks, don't let ideology blind you to historical necessity. Ideology is only a guide, it ain't God.

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