When people start talking about how “technology will restore our economy” I tend to get a little nervous. Generally, it is not good to mix politics and science. It is worse for politicians to make national policy using science or technology as the justification. Politicians are rarely technically astute enough to interpret the opinions of the “experts”, especially when they conflict with each other. And due to the politics of funding, experts sometimes have to be politically sensitive to their patrons.
What is the proper role of government in the realm of science and technology? Personally, I think there should be no direct role. But the cat’s out of the bag. And government has taken a large part of the role controlling what technology we as a nation will work on when $9Bil is spent by the DOE and many times that is spent through the various military and non-military agencies of the government who contract research and development. There is a legitimate interest in our country’s defence, but the lines have become blurred as more and more funding comes from government sources.
Industry in the United States, it seems, has outsourced a lot of the Research and Development that it used to fund. The Euorpeans work closely with their Universities to leverage the available talent at low cost to get some things done. The US is doing some of that, but maybe we need to do more.
Sometimes there are bigger forces at work that no single company can overcome in its marketplace. Transitioning from gasoline based cars to electric cars might be one. Auto makers need volumes of 50,000 to 100,000 units to get cost effective. Notwithstanding that claim, I am pretty sure that the Japanese hybrids are just now reaching those volumes. Those are cars American workers didn’t get to build.
And taxing things is a form of economic punishment. Taxation is intended to discourage certain behaviors. But taxing (punishing) is a form of negative reinforcement. Instead, wouldn’t we be better off by encouraging good behavior?
So here’s are a really radical idea; instead of taxing carbon, or creating a shadow currency that only a few large companies can profit from, why don’t we incentivize any new technology that can be substituted for combustion? Let’s figure out some novel ways to run our systems without burning something. Carcinogenic diesel emissions and other atmospheric polutants, will gradually disappear. Clean air and water will be an almost certain result in years to come.
Solar Power, Wind Power and Electric Cars all avoid combustion. Tax Credit? You bet. Fuel Cell Bus(already available) for city transportation systems? Yup. Injection heaters for hot water? Hot water heat exchanger for central heating systems? That would replace burning natural gas, right? Cha-ching, tax credit. Electricity generated by atomic energy in mini-reactors instead of burning coal? That too. In fact, we could affort to give the whole coal industry help to convert itself into the fuel refining and encapsulating industry instead of paying $60 to $90 Billion to rebuild the national grid. The grid won’t be needed except in an emergency.
We would have so many new businesses opening up, employment would go up and the national debt would go down, without raising taxes. Let’s give American innovation a chance.