Monday, April 25, 2011

Wise Words

Marty Hoffert has an excellent opinion piece in the April 14th issue of Nature, with a very high ratio of wisdom-to-words.

In "Governments must pay for clean-energy innovation" he writes:
Some assert that government investment in transformative energy technology is code for tax and spend, and that suitable technologies already exist, or will be delivered by market forces. Others argue that government incentives such as feed-in tariffs for solar and wind energy are unnecessary, and that clean energy should compete in the market from the beginning. But the idea that private sector entrepreneurship can do the job alone is based on a myth. It took 30 years of government funding of the Internet by the military research
agency DARPA and the National Science Foundation before Wall Street discovered that there was money to be made out of it.
No money? US debt now is a comparable per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to what it was in the Great Depression before the Second World War. By massively borrowing from ourselves to finance President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s miracles of war production and technology development, we saw aircraft morph from biplanes to jets, and nuclear power become a reality, even as the US debt-to-GDP ratio increased to more than 100% by the end of the war. We bet the farm on a stimulus package on steroids — and we won. The United States emerged as the strongest economy on the planet.
In the latter part of the ‘American century’, the United States somehow lost its way. No longer ‘makers’, we became a nation of rustbelts, Ponzi schemes and subprime mortgage risk, myopically focused on quarterly earnings and consumerism. What a tragedy it would be to lose America’s talent for innovation after 200 years. Mr President and Congress: open your minds to a civilization powered by wind turbines in harmony with our landscape and continental shelves; solar electricity from deserts and Earth orbit powering our cites; safe, proliferation resistant nuclear reactors; coal gasifiers driving efficient electric power plants with CO2 stored underground; along with energy-efficient homes and public buildings, smart power grids, high-speed rail, electric and biofuelled cars, even carbon-neutral fuels made from sunlight, water and CO2 in the atmosphere more efficiently than nature does by photosynthesis. These are no longer impossible dreams, but realities of new US industries revitalized by American entrepreneurs and a high-tech workforce, much like the one Roosevelt created to fight the Second World War.
and he finishes with:
This is a dream worth rededicating the American experiment to: visionary, and yet science-based, that goal will lift the spirit of our children and grandchildren with passion and the tenacity to make it so. Say it, Barack, shout it from the rooftops, dedicate your presidency to it, and you will stand immortal in the pantheon of American leaders who changed everything.


Steve Bloom said...

Well, biplanes were obsolete before the war, and credit for the devlopment of jets goes to the British and the Germans before the U.S., but who's counting.

crf said...

Perhaps Hoffert could move the China or India (or maybe even Russia or Taiwan).

In the US, or the west, spending large amounts of money for scientific innovation to insure a better future years from now is totally passe.