Apr 10

Should the Government Invest In Technology Research?

 

The prospect of federal dollars going toward advanced research – including for hybrid and electric car development – has caught its fair share of criticism, but according to a recent twin panel discussion on Capitol Hill, American competitiveness also hangs in the balance.

Objections have included philosophical disagreement with the government “betting taxpayer money” and “picking winners and losers” but what happens when bets pay off?

According to a March 16 discussion sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and nine other professional societies, many federal bets have fundamentally improved life as we know it.

FiskerSURF360
Fisker and its battery supplier A123 Systems have taken federal money to research and develop product with ultimate payoff yet uncertain. The fear is if they fail, taxpayers lose. The hope is if they succeed, America wins.

As companies like Fisker Automotive contend for a remaining balance of a low interest Energy Department loan – with critics saying it will be “the next Solyndra” – the briefings showed that sometimes the government can also pick winners.

For example, Google’s search engine algorithm was born from a $4.5 million National Science Foundation grant for a Stanford University digital library project. Similarly, federally funded research into lithium-ion batteries, liquid crystal displays, signal compression and magnetic storage devices was credited with the 2001 introduction of Apple’s iPod. And thus far $5.6 billion invested in the Human Genome Project over 13 years has netted an estimated $67 billion economic payoff.

The discussion, as reported by Lab Manager Magazine centered on whether federally backed research and development is worthwhile and concluded there is little question spending has paid off over the years.

Arguments leading to this included those by Fred Block, a research professor at the University of California, Davis, who cited a number of reasons, including a trend by large corporations to cut back on funding.

“The basic innovation system in the U.S. economy has changed very radically over the last 30 years,” Block said. The dominance by large companies has declined, and many scientists and engineers have “voted with their feet,” and have moved to companies with fewer than 500 employees.

The need for the government to get involved was further shown in that out of the 88 U.S. winners of the “R&D 100” awards by R&D Magazine, 77 had federal backing.

“The federal role has permeated the innovation economy,” Block said.

Block also said the public and private long-term value of R&D was revealed in a 2010 study that tracked the growth of output per unit of labor in the U.S. economy from 1948 to 2007. The study used U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to conclude that the output grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent, and 58 percent of that growth was credited to the increase of knowledge that comes from investment in R&D.

Catherine T. (Katie) Hunt, R&D director for Innovation Sourcing & Sustainable Technologies at The Dow Chemical Company said federal R&D programs, which often cross disciplinary boundaries, help to promote new ideas by bringing various pieces of a research puzzle together.

Hunt also said it is important to not only avoid eating the “seed corn” for economic growth, but also to make sure the ground is well-prepared when that corn is planted.

Today it is also not uncommon to hear that the U.S. economic downturn should be countered by fiscal conservatism – a sentiment edging even in the area of tech R&D. This was countered by the moderator for the briefings, Vijay Vaitheeswaran, a senior correspondent for The Economist, who documented fruitful industrial investments that yielded long-reaching positive results began during one of America’s darkest times.

Vaitheeswaran said history suggests great countries, like great companies, invest during an economic downturn. His new book, “Need, Speed and Greed,” cites economic historian Alexander J. Field of Santa Clara University, and Vaitheeswaran contended it was not so much mobilization for World War II that planted seeds for postwar prosperity but rather technological progress achieved during the 1930s and the Great Depression.

“Lots of great companies founded then ultimately paid off,” Vaitheeswaran said.

Today we often hear about China investing heavily in electric vehicles, stacking the deck for its state-run companies, while some Americans decry the U.S. is declining as the “world’s largest auto market” continues on its inexorable rise.

Basing his optimism for the entire U.S. economy on his research, Vaitheeswaran said the U.S. does not have to wind up a loser if it plays its yet-considerable advantages wisely, and invests in technology now.

“It’s wrong to say that just because China goes up, the United States has to come down,” he said denying the fear that we are playing a zero-sum game. “That’s too simplistic. That’s not how innovation works in an open world.”

The knowledgeable speakers shared a conditional optimism, while noting ironies as well.

Hunt – who is also a former president of the American Chemical Society – got laughs when she quoted genius inventor, and former EV advocate, Thomas Edison, who also foresaw solar energy’s potential over 80 years ago.

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy,” Edison said in 1931, “What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

The speakers observed we’ve missed opportunities, while winning bets also, but said the bottom line is a quantifiable case for government investment has always existed.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 63


  1. 1
    James McQuaid

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (7:04 am)

    If the Republicans now running Congress had been in charge during World War II, the U.S. government would not have built Oak Ridge National Lab or the atomic bomb. They would have told the American people that “we can not afford to win the war”.

    If the Republicans now running Congress had been in charge during the 1980′s, the U.S. would not have won the Cold War. They would have refused to spend the money on the high tech rearmament of the armed forces.

    Hopefully the voters will send these people will be sent back to the private sector where they belong.


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    Gsned57

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (7:12 am)

    I think you are talking two different things here. Research vs. product development. Research is the work of scientists and is in no way a sure bet and would never have a business case without major assumptions that research will go the way you want it to go. Product development on the other hand is a post research effort that is mainly Engineering intensive and using that research that was already done to package it in a way that should always have a business case with much less risk.

    I don’t think too many people have problems with research unless it delves into topics that most American’s find frivolous or having no benefit to America for example “Government pays for study of gay men’s penis sizes”. As opposed to research for NASA, the human genome project, Manhattan project.

    When we talk about the low interest loans we are talking about product development and that is where solyndra and Fisker come into play. The reason the Obama administration was in the hot seat on Solyndra is that they structured the loan in a way that paid out private investors before the taxpayer if the company went bankrupt (Unprecedented). Not only that but Solyndra never had a positive business case short of taking taxpayer money. Many are arguing that Fisker is in that same boat. After Solyndra the government is being very gunshy in awarding any new loans to the point of killing companies that have been expecting these loans.

    In instances of product development the government should look at these loans as investments. They should act as banker and if the company can’t project a positive business case that makes sense they shouldn’t get any money. If they don’t get private funding as well then maybe there is a reason the government shouldn’t fund them.

    Fisker isn’t researching anything. They are using commercial off the shelf batteries and a commercial off the shelf engine and packaging it in a beautiful shell. Personally I don’t know how many Tesla’s and Fiskers the world can sustain and I hope our government does it’s due diligence, grows a pair and makes a final yay or nay decision so Fisker can move on with it’s business.


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    Loboc

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:07 am)

    I think the gov’t should invest in future-proofing by direct funding of university research. Investing in iffy companies is getting us nowhere.

    The whole subsidy thing needs to be revisited. Continuing to subsidize say oil companies that make billions in profits is plain dumb.

    What we need is planning from the government. Such as a real long-term energy plan. Competing companies cannot do that. Motivation is short-term profit not long-term sustainability or even caring about the public.


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    pat

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:26 am)

    That is the diff the GOP wants to spend $$$ in subsidies to OIl (which is plain dumb) to get $$$ for elections they are not interested in investing in research like baterries, health care, etc etc where the impact of some seed money is great. Gop is not interested in help/betterment the lives of its citizens they are interested in god,guns,abortions non sense to garner votes. What a platform!
    I am wrong tho as millions follow the bs from Gop , Fix news, Rush, Beck generating hate, violence from guns and hypocracy on endless subjects.


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    Bonaire

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:30 am)

    I like oversight. When such a large loan is given to a risky new business, the Govt should have a staff member on-hand to audit their activities on a monthly basis and issue claw-backs upon certain findings.

    For instance, with Solyndra, the product was so different that it was destined to fail. It was technically harder to produce than the competition and was not able to reduce costs as the competition did. A monthly auditing review of the technology and the company cash flow could have thrown the “red flag” much earlier than waiting for final shutdown. Loans should not be all or nothing (ie. here’s your $500M check) – rather, they should be given out on a quarterly basis proportionally to need. You don’t give your kid a 4-year expense account when they start college – you give it to them monthly.

    I see that the DoE loan process is basically “here’s your big check – good luck!”. This needs to change with deeper oversight and full cash-flow analysis along the way. They can “afford” to write the check but seemingly cannot afford harsher oversight. Fisker currently fails the cash flow analysis and I’m glad to see their loan was stalled until they can figure out how to proceed with the Atlantic, how they will eventually some day actually make $1 in profit, and so on. Fisker is not “ground-breaking, innovative” technology at all and should not be government funded. They also are not “that green” either. Excess weight, double the energy needs as a volt – they’re not very efficient but got the loan long before the EPA numbers came out. They were funded at the state level in Delaware as well.

    If a battery technology was proven strong in research with a benefit over current batteries and all it would take is money to build-out a factory to produce it and it had a business model that was not a high-loss initially (ie. A123) then it is worth investing in the build-out. But much of this is subjective and can be influenced by lobbiests and back-room dealings and we know this does happen in the government offices. When that kind of dealing stops and the government runs things as a business (an honest business, some are not) – then these large loans should proceed. We all know government waste is out there. What is the current waste-level of the budget, 10-20% or so? That’s huge based on the value of the annual budget. Investment can be done successfully without as much risk, chance and waste.


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    Roy_H

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:56 am)

    Wow, this is much more political than about EVs. So…

    Canadians have almost decimated each of the two major political parties because they focused on bringing down the other party instead of working for the benefit of Canada (the now ruling Conservative Party was down to 1 member). This has taught the parties a good lesson, and they now realize that foolish agendas don’t fly, and they can’t count on people voting for them just because their father did.

    Americans need to do the same thing to the Republican Party. It has reached absurd heights of ridiculous rhetoric and has demonstrated that it is willing to sacrifice the American economy and welfare of American people just to defeat bills and try to make the Democrats look bad. The Republican Party will recover, and when it does it will be better for it. But this time around Americans should vote them out and give the Democrats a chance to get something good accomplished.


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    Shock Me

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:58 am)

    James McQuaid,

    Not for nothing, but the Republicans WERE in charge during the 80s and dumped billions into creating a 600-ship navy that was too large to man and maintain. They were quite happy to bombard the DoD with cash after 9/11. Both parties have their spendthrifts.

    And in World War II, Republicans set aside politics and basically ignored the corruption in the Roosevelt administration in order to get at the their erstwhile allies the Nazi who threatened their businesses on the continent. The worst you could say of them was they kept their options open by maintaining informal relationships with businesses in Germany.

    At the same time the Democrati-led government was penetrated by Russian intelligence to a far greater extent then the Germans had been able to achieve. The only way to clear Foggy Bottom of communists was to basically destroy our institutional knowledge of most of the world. Instead we let Uncle Ho turn to Moscow because Wilson was a racist and Diem was a Catholic. We responded to the assassination of a possible ally in Iran by bouncing the dude they elected and installing the Shah a second time.

    Not a one of them in twenty have any damn idea what they are doing. And those that do think only of the the next election cycle and the “donations” they need to gather.

    Basic research, roads, wires, and a properly scaled DEFENSE are the proper roles of government that promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and, if we don’t spend too much, our posterity.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:04 am)

    gsned you said it perfectly. Research vs product development. Research grants to our universities? Yes. NASA? Yes. Military contracts? (which in reality is a form of closed market product development) Yes. Loans to for profit private enterprises? No!

    I am not even opposed to govt agencies pushing an administrations agenda by their purchases. For instance if the Obama (or any other) administration wishes to buy Volts for various agencies that need vehicles I think that is within his prerogative to do so. Whether I agree or not is immaterial and just my opinion. But investing in private organizations? I am no constitutional lawyer so don’t ask me to point out where in the constitution it says that can’t be done but it sure smacks me as being completely un-American.

    Not to mention the process is ripe for very ugly cronyism, politics and profiteering. These companies that received govt loans and went under, where did the money go? It went somewhere, which means someone made a lot of money off of these “failures”. I’m not suggesting someone just pocketed it. No, no. It will all seem very legit with contracts to provide this and that at huge profits not showing up until the 2nd or 3rd company involved. It is called money laundering when done with illegally obtained cash. When done with U.S. tax dollars it is called “investments”.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:16 am)

    Anyone know if EEstor got loans from the feds…?
    l’m still rooting for them…..(But not investing)…….
    HaroldC


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    kdawg

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:22 am)

    If the idea is to get off oil, and one of the major ways to do that is to drive an EV, and the main thing holding people back is prices, and the most costly item in an EV is the battery; then it seems to me that the Government needs to invest in battery research.

    The rest of the car can be engineered with current methods, but we really need advancements in batteries for EV’s to take off. Critics always say the battery hasn’t changed in 100 years, but most of us know that isn’t true. Lots of research is currently being done, but I’d like to see a serious national effort. Many have used the analogy of a Manhattan project. Spending 1 billion on such a project is nothing compared to how much we spend on oil in 1 day. What’s the saying… “a stitch in time saves nine”.


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    Steve

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:32 am)

    Does it bother anyone else how many of these examples of U.S. R+D has ended up then being commercially produced elsewhere and not here?


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    Raymondjram

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:33 am)

    I agree that the Federal support of science research must continue. I read about DARPA and its effort to interconnect university computers to transit data files, which led to the Internet. Since it was a Federal system, it become free and open (paid by taxpayers), while the private telephone companies charge its subscribers to be connectd. Those same university students (who worked with the Internet) later became the founders of many companies producing products that we use now. I met one of the first Internet users, who was a AIX trainer at IBM in 1994, and he explained that he was using the Internet as a student back in the early 1980′s.

    Email was for internal system users (I used a basic email system in 1989) but thanks to the Internet, it became the largest text-based intercommunication system, and even surpassed the USPS in the amount of messages sent and received per day. It even displaced facsimile (FAX) for sending documents, and eliminated the need for special hardware to send and receive messages since ever cellphone can become a “terminal” for free.

    I believe that the universities are the fertile ground to plant ideas as “seeds” in developing new technology, and that Federal grants must continue. There are millions of new ideas in the minds of the young students that may be the next big thing for this new century, and many ofthose ideas will be for the electrification of our transportation.

    Raymond


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    DonC

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (10:31 am)

    For all those who think the government should not fund product development, take note that China directly funds companies not research. Seems to have worked out for them pretty well. Not that the US doesn’t do this as well. Direct funding for private companies comes not from the DOE, which gets all the press, but from the DoD. No one seems disturbed about all the DoD funding, which suggests the following:

    Direct funding of product development depends not on a theoretical distinction between research and product development but on how important you think the product is to national defense. So to a large extent whether you approve of direct funding of solar firms or energy projects depends on your view of the energy markets. If you think those products are necessary and important to national security the funding is desirable. If not, and you think that we can just drill our way to prosperity, then no.

    Finally, anyone who thinks the government doesn’t fund massive amounts of product development is delusional. The biggest funding source for product development is the Small Business Administration. The only difference between DOE funding is that this is indirect funding provided in the form of guarantees. This allows the private banking sector to take fees while having taxpayers shoulder all the risk, a setup that pleases the banks as well as Republicans and Democrats alike.


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    Jeff Cobb

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (10:37 am)

    Gsned57: I think you are talking two different things here. Research vs. product development. Research is the work of scientists and is in no way a sure bet and would never have a business case without major assumptions that research will go the way you want it to go. Product development on the other hand is a post research effort that is mainly Engineering intensive and using that research that was already done to package it in a way that should always have a business case with much less risk.

    When I write these articles, I am not advocating an implicit answer. I am citing the opinion of other people. It is an open question for discussion and airing all sides.

    I mentioned Fisker because it is an on-going automotive example beyond mere academic examples, and is not entirely unrelated to the question about research.

    And beyond that, the core idea in question is should the government give a boost to worthwhile projects? (As China is doing, for example). Should a nation invest in its technological future? Regardless of how Fisker and Solyndra deals were structured, should the government help its technological leaders? If so, how? If not, why?

    Granted, Fisker and its plans for Nina/Atlantic is at a product development and manufacturing stage, but the principle of betting on companies that could benefit the economy and country’s competitiveness if allowed to mature is similar and Fisker is a near fit that stands to arguably be a complete fit.

    1) Again, the article is not only a question of should Fisker be given money? The article asks a broader question that transcends any one company.

    And while we’re at it, let’s ask where does advanced research end, and product development end, and are these not related? A123 Systems began with academics in a lab and the government got on board. It and Fisker’s fortunes are now somewhat tied together, at least for now.

    2) In the caption, I wrote: “Fisker and its battery supplier A123 Systems have taken federal money to research and develop product with ultimate payoff yet uncertain”

    A123 Systems most certainly is doing research and the companies have a mutually symbiotic relationship. Fisker and A123 stand to benefit one another.

    3) In the future, Fisker will need to do research, or indirectly be supported by advances needed to stay competitive.

    Gsned57: Personally I don’t know how many Tesla’s and Fiskers the world can sustain and I hope our government does it’s due diligence, grows a pair and makes a final yay or nay decision so Fisker can move on with it’s business.

    4) Fisker’s goal is to go from up-market luxury to mid-level (Atlantic series) down to every day cars just like Tesla’s business plan calls for. Granted there is a limited market for high end luxury, but let us not forget it intends to mass produce and invest in America if given the chance, and it can otherwise do what it set out to do.

    So granted, production and research are not apples-to-apples, but there is a tie-in. Fisker is already helping a research company, and will need it and more research further.

    This is a philosophical question. No where do I bash one party or the other. If an idea is good, it should transcend partisan bickering.


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    Jackson

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:11 am)

    James McQuaid,

    Thank you for pressing the political self-destruct button. Screed always helps.

    In fact, the Republicans are a majority in only one house of Congress, and are unwilling to rock the boat enough to promote the kind of Conservative viewpoints which in fact won the Cold War through research . . . under Reagan and Contract with America Republicans. In other words, today’s Republicans are not Republican enough, only want to be liked, and are not in control of the Congress in any case.

    If today’s Democrats had been in control in the 1940′s everything would have been blamed on previous Republican administrations, and social entitlements would have been pushed forward at the expense of the country’s ability to defend itself in a changing world. Roosevelt and Truman were able to recognize priorities which were in the country’s interests to pursue first, and responded. The Democrats were later rewarded with the economic growth which could better support their social agendas. I don’t believe Obama would take his eyes off of his prize of destroying Capitalism to protect and preserve America — nor has he.

    Is lack of Research a problem, or are bad decisions on what to research (based on a Leader’s narrow agenda, even as his economic policies reduce America’s ability to support any research), the problem?

    Americans will decide later this year.


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    Gary

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:16 am)

    Of course the government should invest some money on research in the high-tech arena, although the amount would be debatable. But being against it would be like saying that the government should shut down the entire public schooling system. Sure, it’s not perfect, but imagine what society would be like today if we didn’t have public education.


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    Jackson

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:38 am)

    There is a case for government investment in new technology and infrastructure. I believe that the correct role involves enabling and encouraging the development of beneficial technology rather than forcing it by fiat before it is ready (for reasons that are mainly ideological). For example, there is missing infrastructure for the adoption of alternate energy which could be addressed by government to better effect. Yes, I have specific suggestions:

    1) Investment in a superconducting technology and implementation which would allow power to be delivered from where the natural energy resources are located, to where they are used. A superconducting backbone would also allow power to be shared across the continent as peak demand shifts over the time zones.

    An illustration of this approach is the Internet; government enabled development through funding of research a decade or more earlier. To a lesser extent, the Interstate Highway System also; which benefited the automobile industry much more than the direct economic intervention of more recent years. In both cases, the government had real, immediate purposes for the investment: a decentralized communication system which could survive a nuclear attack, and a means of rapidly moving military forces across the continent. Later technological and economic development provided value upon value.

    2) A large-scale means of storing electricity, to even out the spiky nature of renewable energy; “making hay when the Sun shines,” in a sense. A superconducting backbone makes this much more efficient, as well as avoiding the NIMBY effect by allow storage facilities to be sited away from populated areas. Off-peak power of whatever source could be buffered to meet peak demand.

    Make it possible, and it will come; the power of an enriched economy will ensure it. The draconian selection by fiat we’ve seen in the current administration has only hurt and delayed the new technologies the country desperately needs, IMO. The right way has it’s own rewards, the wrong way can carry with it undesired consequences.


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    Noel Park

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:40 am)

    kdawg: Spending 1 billion on such a project is nothing compared to how much we spend on oil in 1 day.

    #10

    Plus how much we spend on “oil wars” and “energy security”, which is no doubt as much again. +1

    Every dollar we spend on electric vehicle research will cme back to us 1000 times IMHO.


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    kdawg

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:48 am)

    DonC: Direct funding for private companies comes not from the DOE, which gets all the press, but from the DoD. No one seems disturbed about all the DoD funding, which suggests the following:
    Direct funding of product development depends not on a theoretical distinction between research and product development but on how important you think the product is to national defense.

    Another point; when the DoE funds “products”, the consumer is Joe the plumber. When the DoD funds “products”, they themselves are the consumer. So you will hear the argument that the Goverment is building these electric vehicles and forcing Joe the plumber to buy them, and that the free market should decide. However in the DoD’s case, you never hear that the DoD is forcing our goverment to buy Company X’s tanks with our tax payer money, because Joe the plumber is not part of the equation (other than his tax dollars). Where is the free market regarding tanks/missiles/subs/planes/guns/etc? This topic could spin off to post war rebuilding efforts as well as Washington cronyism, but just focussing on the “products” themselves you can see where people become misguided. Maybe (as others have suggested) the DoD should have just bought 1,000,000 Volts, slap some missiles on them,and call them Silent EV Missile Transport Systems. Then the Government wouldn’t have to subsidize the Volt for Joe the plumber to get sales up, and the $ would have been there for R&D. (But I don’t think that would have been the correct decision)


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    Loboc

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:54 am)

    Jackson,

    Or, de-centralize by using neighborhood storage and solar on every roof.


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    pat

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:02 pm)

    GOP sheep now cry about deficits ..new points picked up by them ..Bush/Cheney spent trillions in Iraq for what? Did we gain anything ? inspite of the warning of fuzzy intelligence reports they wanted sock and awe to show its might .. Thousands died plus 45k injured badly for what? But now the Gop sheep wake up and cry about deficits ..
    Iraq war was such a blunder that anyone who supported Bush from other countries was booted from the office except Bush. he won reelection. Such is the tragedy/legacy Bush left. Now Gop cries about deficits. What a shame! Iraq under Saddam was a counter force again Iran now that is gone and Iraq acts against US interests. In time Iraq will be part of the evil axis just like Iran. What a collosal mistake/decision by Cheney who controlled Bush – person who cud not think on his own. Cheney was perfect match for Bush. This kind of reality i sunthinkable for many Gop sheep ..they only run with the bs from Fix news. Oh well will we ever learn!


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    Jackson

     

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:12 pm)

    Loboc:
    Jackson,

    Or, de-centralize by using neighborhood storage and solar on every roof.

    Or a combination.

    Part of the problem with the recent failed initiatives is the placing of a timescale on results aimed at political advantage for it’s author (more so than the meeting urgent needs). It will take years for the superconducting and storage technologies to be viable, decentralized tech can be a valuable arena for developing it (or even, making it less urgent).

    Storage of off-peak power at substations would allow our existing power lines to supply more energy than they do now; by operating at peak load continuously (depending on storage to time-shift according to load). Rooftop and onsite is also valuable; though if you happen not to have enough sunlight due to weather and latitude (or enough wind for a wind generator), you could be out of luck. For these reasons, I believe a national system is inevitable. The success of decentralized systems may help determine when it comes.


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    DonC

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:14 pm)

    Jackson: Is lack of Research a problem, or are bad decisions on what to research (based on a Leader’s narrow agenda, even as his economic policies reduce America’s ability to support any research), the problem?

    What exactly are the policies that you think are so terrible? I see this stuff thrown out all the time and it’s never backed up. Do you really think the country would have been better off letting GM go belly up, which would have taken the entire manufacturing sector down with it (BTW Carlos Ghosn just said that even Nissan would have been taken down with GM). And do you really think that the country would have been better off had we not had a stimulus package? Yes it was half the size we needed to be but it sure was better than nothing.

    What else are you complaining about? Trying to end dependency on oil? Health care reform aka heath cost containment? Financial reform aka ending too big to fail? Tax reform aka ending the crazy Bush tax cuts? Educational funding so the workforce is more productive? I don’t think you can objectively look at the situation and not think that the biggest impediment to economic growth over the last few years have been Republicans who have been most interested in killing the recovery in hopes of blaming Obama for the failure.

    What’s pathetic in my mind is that as the economy recovers despite their best efforts they now want to take credit for it.

    As for decisions on funding, I’m thinking that having a Nobel prize winner who came of age at Bell Labs make these decisions is better than letting some political hack do it. YMMV.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:23 pm)

    pat: GOP sheep now cry about deficits ..new points picked up by them ..Bush/Cheney spent trillions in Iraq for what? Did we gain anything ? inspite of the warning of fuzzy intelligence reports they wanted sock and awe to show its might .. Thousands died plus 45k injured badly for what? But now the Gop sheep wake up and cry about deficits

    Obama racked up more debt in three years than George did in eight. In fact, Obama racked up more debt in nearly four years than all previous presidents put together. And for what? An unsustainable culture of entitlement which is already causing economic collapse overseas?

    Cheney controlled Bush? That ridiculous screed is almost a decade old, and often repeated by shills on the Left. Telling a lie over and over endlessly does not make it true. Who are the sheep here, and when will they learn? You are being played for saps by the very people who want to guarantee their power over every aspect of your own lives. If you have your way, the lesson will come too late for us all.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:37 pm)

    Jackson: Obama racked up more debt in three years than George did in eight.

    #24

    Cleaning up Bush’s mess. -1, and I almost never do it.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:38 pm)

    DonC,

    By now, everyone here knows which side of the bread we each like to butter; between the two of us, this slice is going to get pretty greasy. Each of us knows in his heart that the other is completely hopeless. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree, spare the board, and move on.

    It is a testament to the Volt that it can attract support even from both of us.

    This goes for you too, Noel.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (12:49 pm)

    @Jackson

    In any given election, I usually vote for a mix of both Democrats and Republicans (because I vote for the person, not based upon party or ideology). This year, however, we really need to *spank* the likes of Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Mike Kelley for their irresponsible and ideotic attacks on the Volt (among other reasons).

    So you like politics? Here’s a little humor for you:

    A conservative, a moderate, and a liberal walk into a bar.
    Bartender says “Hi Mitt.”

    And now for DonC’s evil laugh: “Ba ha ha ha ha ha ha”

    :)


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (1:44 pm)

    JamesMcQuaid: A conservative, a moderate, and a liberal walk into a bar.
    Bartender says “Hi Mitt.”

    I’ll be telling that one! [+1]


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (1:56 pm)

    If the Trillions spent on war had gone to electrification of personal autos made by American car manufacturers, then we would not need oil imports from Venezuela and the Saudis. All of these whack-job dictators would be crying like little girls because the USA doesn’t need their stinking oil anymore.

    I only live for the day.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (2:01 pm)

    I would be in favor of more scientists as members in Congress, campaign finance reform; one piece of legislation that McCain did get right, legislation to prohibit [insider trading] and the end of oil subsidies; since they don’t need it. Congress is reluctant to fix itself; fearing they might lose campaign funds thus political power and or personal gain as well. As long as big money is in the political equation; all motives are suspect JMO.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (2:54 pm)

    CorvetteGuy: If the Trillions spent on war had gone to electrification of personal autos made by American car manufacturers, then we would not need oil imports from Venezuela and the Saudis.

    #29

    Amen brother. Preach on! +1


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (2:57 pm)

    DonC: As for decisions on funding, I’m thinking that having a Nobel prize winner who came of age at Bell Labs make these decisions is better than letting some political hack do it.

    #23

    Gee, ya think? +1 And on the whole comment BTW.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    I like a good debate as much as the next guy, lol… But blaming going on here is foolish. Shock Me said it all in post #7: “Both parties have their spendthrifts”.

    As you know, I’m a conservative-leaning moderate and I believe all here love our country, with differing opinions yet we should all agree that campaign finance reform is the single way out of nearly all our woes. McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act was bi-partisan. Today it has been brought down by Congress. OF COURSE IT WAS! – This is a politician’s golden egg! It’s why other, weaker democracies worldwide are even more corrupt than our own. For this country to recover – we need to get politicians serving the population and not vice versa. Corporations, moral movements on both sides and special interests need to be extremely limited as to how they can fund a political candidate. The job of Congressperson needs to be far less a treasure trove of benefits and they need to be greatly more accountable and transparent for their decisions.

    Bringing campaign finance reform is nearly a lost hope. There is just too much legaleze and blaming going on for it to pass. Politicians ( including our Commander In Chief ) just benefit TOO MUCH from it. Much like the federal gasoline tax not being raised due to politics. Instead the “solution” is to place the burden of oil reform onto auto and truck manufacturers! A higher federal gas tax will fund infrastructure, create jobs, and I believe even more important – WEEN FOLKS OFF OF GAS GUZZER CARS. We used to be a consumer-driven free market country. When the consumer sees the added benefit of not paying for higher gas, they choose better options, including electric cars. We complain about foot-dragging by automakers, but is it fair to blame them when our elected officials take the responsibilities away from themselves? Likewise voting for campaign finance reform is like a Congressperson shooting themselves and their party in the foot. It just aint gonna happen until we toss out this major flaw in our system of governance.

    I cannot vote for president in this election. I know conservatives tell me that is a vote for Obama, yet I cannot compromise what I know about the G.O.P. and “energy independence” , the new term for “drill baby drill”. Today, as all the G.O.P. candidates bid farewell, I cannot stomach voting for Mitt Romney. He really does not represent ANYTHING I hold dearly or stand for.

    As has been the case for nearly twenty years, it comes down to voting for the best of two evils, rather than what is truly a way forward for this grand old nation of ours.

    SINCERELY,

    James

    Down with Super PACS!

    STOP SUBSIDIZING BIG OIL!


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (4:08 pm)

    Sorry for my political two cents – but I felt it definately needs to be said. It’s a message we all need to hear.

    As for our government funding research and development – I say yes, that includes engineering and I say of course it has to be done in a balance. I Googled, and yes our government DID pay for a NIH study that focused on the penis size of gay men in America! They funded it to the tune of $840,000, and yes the NIH has all sorts of excuses to water down how much got to this study, but in my opinion one dollar of our tax monies was too much! Yes, the funding was approved under the Bush administration. So let’s stop the blame-game and all get smart.

    Vote the bastards out – let them know our collective will. Let them serve us , not seek to profit off of us.

    RECHARGE! ,

    James


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (4:10 pm)

    Jackson: Obama racked up more debt in three years than George did in eight.In fact, Obama racked up more debt in nearly four years than all previous presidents put together.

    Wow so I guess the graph below (from NYT) is complete lie. Jackson I think you either have selective memory or have only been watching FOX news. Bush got us into 2 wars and then cut taxes (first time tax cuts had been done during wartime under any President). Bush initiated most of the bailouts. Obama did do the 2nd stimulus, which as the graph shows did not cost us nearly as much as Bush’s choices. Healthcare and entitlement costs are going to bankrupt our country unless we reduce those costs, increase taxes, and reduce defense expenditures (get out of Iraq & Afganhistan).
    That being said, we can’t cut investments in the future the government needs to continue both research & product development, but prudently not by giving money away (without some chance of getting it back) like Solyndra.
    232323232%7Ffp635%3A6%3Enu%3D9356%3E75%3B%3E259%3EWSNRCG%3D34%3C6%3C5%3B69734%3Anu0mrj


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (4:14 pm)

    James: Bringing campaign finance reform is nearly a lost hope. There is just too much legaleze and blaming going on for it to pass.

    We are getting reform, just in the wrong direction. Hopefully we can get Citizens United repealed. Unless people actually believe like Romney “Corporations are people my friend”. What a joke. A sad one, that is.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (5:20 pm)

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (5:21 pm)

    DonC: For all those who think the government should not fund product development, take note that China directly funds companies not research. Seems to have worked out for them pretty well.

    Also helps to have millions of people eager to work 80 hrs/week for less than $1 per hour.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (5:48 pm)

    Open-Mind: Also helps to have millions of people eager to work 80 hrs/week for less than $1 per hour.

    “eager”… yeah right,. Some seem to be more eager to jump off the side of a building.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (6:31 pm)

    China will be the force to recon with in future .. we sent trillions to China cuz we buy cheap kick/.knacks just look in Walmart all made in China and the trade surplus they carry … Correct countries like China govt funds on research and to private cos to sustain during initial period of groeth ..just look at Solar manufacturing … But we spend $$$ on Iraq war .. aid to Israel (right to some extent) but we need put $$$ into manufacturing, education, research etc .. good for jobs here ..
    As a matter of cocience we should not decimate departments who check for products coming into our country (Bush destroyed the product quality/check for lead etc Dept) It was a joke so we got products into the country with lead in toys, lead in dry wall products etc etc Just look at the E Coli in beef, pork and eggs…as a result people get sick and tainted meat has to be destroyed .. Just checking these products for quality etc will be helpful to a country but not to the Goppers who want every Dept to be eliminated to save $$ for the oil cos etc…


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (6:33 pm)

    Hey guys this might get your attention when it comes to the internet as in this article it mentions that younger Americans are driving less these days.

    Note) This article might be a few days old but I just wanted to point this out to you enjoy.

    http://ap.stripes.com/dynamic/stories/U/US_YOUNG_DRIVERS?SITE=DCSAS&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-04-06-13-07-09


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (7:35 pm)

    I wouldn’t have a problem with the government giving out research grants IF the money generated MANUFACTURING jobs in the US by US owned and operated companies.

    Trouble is, the vast majority of this technology that we (the U.S. tax payer) pay for winds up in foreign hands. Allow me to quote the blog:

    “Similarly, federally funded research into lithium-ion batteries, liquid crystal displays, signal compression and magnetic storage devices was credited with the 2001 introduction of Apple’s iPod.”

    Show me a factory that manufactures Lithium-ion batteries LCD displays, or even Apple’s precious IPod in the United States. Does a U.S. company or the U.S. government hold the patent’s on ANY of this technology? If so please let me know.

    In the future, Uncle Sam, If you give out ‘research grants or technology loans’ I want the following for MY TAX DOLLAR:

    1: The U.S. holds any patents that arise out of the research and then licenses that patent to an AMERICAN owned company who will produce the products in U.S. factories.

    2: Any foreign entity, company or government, that gets its hands on the said technology will not be allowed to sell their products in the U.S.

    3: Any American company that tries to manufacture a licensed product in a off shore (and I include Mexico and Canada) factory will be tariff’ed into oblivion.

    Sorry folks but this is MY MONEY and I want my money’s worth. I know a lot of readers on this blog are from other nations. You should demand the same from YOUR government as well.

    Every other country does business this way except the U.S. It’s time we demand better from our elected idiots.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (7:52 pm)

    solo: “Similarly, federally funded research into lithium-ion batteries, liquid crystal displays, signal compression and magnetic storage devices was credited with the 2001 introduction of Apple’s iPod.”

    Show me a factory that manufactures Lithium-ion batteries LCD displays, or even Apple’s precious IPod in the United States.

    #42

    True that. +1


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    Battery Folks tell you truth

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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:20 pm)

    ******MODERATOR’S WARNING:

    We’ll leave your comment but do NOT use the F-word or even any other hint at NSFW language on this site.

    Make your point with proper language or refrain from commenting.

    GM-Volt.Com
    ##########################################################

    I dare to say there is no one here really understand battery, unless you are GM employee.

    I am working for a battery related business and we got government money, let me tell you: it is awful because anyone who used government money knows this: the rule is horrendous and
    the way to spend money is often very wasteful because of one unwritten rule: You gotta spend all the money at the end or you look bad, you are often doing unnecessary things in order to justify the spending, and since you must show proof of doing things, you often end up doing things that is useless and that takes away the time you could spend doing productive work, this is very truthful.

    Anyone who actually works in related field will tell you people this: ##EXPLETIVE DELETED##, this will surely include GM employees who works on Chevy Volt, including their engineers, project managers, CTO, CEO, GM just can’t say that openly. My conversation with one major auto company (of the the following, GM, Toyota, Ford, Honda ), their response is: “These wacko tree huggers are ###EXPLETIVE DELETED### us up because we will surely spend a few billion and 10 years from today we will still drive predominantly on gasoline, and the relentless attention hurts us because we know sooner or later some bad recall will destroy our reputation.”

    One should define the simultaneous achievements of the following as success:

    1). EV/PHEV must be as convenient as regular gas powered vehicle, this is true with Chevy Volt.
    2). EV/PHEV must have similar durability as regular car for 10 years and there should not be any expensive repair bill such as $20K for a dead battery. (This one is highly unlikely)
    3). Customer will be able to recoup the premium cost by using less gasoline (this is not going to happen if you know that GM lose >$30K per vehicle and they can never manufacture Chevy Volt for under $40K, according to a private conversation)
    4). Customer expect similar or better safety, as a scientist, I think Chevy Volt can claim 4) in spite of bad PR. Regular customer might get scared when sensational news of a burning car shown on CNN.

    There is virtually no possibility to achieve all four of them, in the case of Prius Plug-in, Toyota does not expect to make money and it is a bridge product to Fuel Cell vehicle down the road, as for GM, they get lots of good PR, but expected to lose a few billion, but more important, they will have an advanced technology not accepted by 95% customer and will fall behind Toyota! The bottom line is this: you can have something that is really advanced, but it is junk if there is the demand is not viable on a commercial basis. (Chevy Volt is more advanced that Prius PHEV).

    I will lose my $120K job soon after lots of wasteful spending/work, and I always have hatred toward 98% people on this forum, let me also tell you this: “You people are not appreciated by people who works on Chevy Volt” because they will also lose their job in a few years!

    Also let you know: A123, Tesla, JCI battery venture, and many many more, none of them will be successful down the road, it will be dominated by Asian players, and that #DELETED# because you wacko people!!!


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:22 pm)

    So, you’re asking, should the Russians have beat us to the moon, and in developing PCs etc?


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (8:34 pm)

    VoltSkeptic: Wow so I guess the graph below (from NYT) is complete lie

    Well, yes.

    NYT: The Liberal’s Fox News.

    Jeff, let’s please not have any more politically polarizing articles. These arguments never help.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:01 pm)

    solo: Show me a factory that manufactures Lithium-ion batteries LCD displays, or even Apple’s precious IPod in the United States

    Well there’s a new battery plant in Holland MI. It’s a start.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:07 pm)

    We are in a zero-sum game that is soon to turn into a negative-sum game. Not from innovation but because of our energy crisis. Since we are no longer growing our global energy supply (flat crude production since 2005) it becomes very true that for China and India to grow, the West must fall because that is the scale needed.

    The highly competitive fight for resources has only just begun.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:14 pm)

    Sean: Hey guys this might get your attention when it comes to the internet as in this article it mentions that younger Americans are driving less these days.
    Note) This article might be a few days old but I just wanted to point this out to you enjoy.
    http://ap.stripes.com/dynamic/stories/U/US_YOUNG_DRIVERS?SITE=DCSAS&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-04-06-13-07-09

    When I started reading this article my initial thought was other statistics where the majority of the population now lives in cities. Reading further, I see they covered this point.

    “a migration of young adults toward large cities, where there are more alternatives to driving”

    To me this is the biggest factor. Social networking may make you drive less, but it won’t prevent you from getting a driver’s license.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (9:42 pm)

    Jackson: Well, yes.

    NYT:The Liberal’s Fox News.

    Jeff, let’s please not have any more politically polarizing articles.These arguments never help.

    Jackson,

    Please read comment #14.

    “This is a philosophical question. No where do I bash one party or the other. If an idea is good, it should transcend partisan bickering.”

    I am really sorry you feel this was a political post. It was actually about broad questions that no where say a thing about Democrats or Republicans.

    It was an open invite for people to suggest things in a dignified and respectful manner.

    You still have that potential. The question of whether government should boost industry can be answered with reasoned responses, and need not go down hill.

    Regards,

    Jeff


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (10:10 pm)

    Here’s where I want research. I’d like roads that do not cough up pot holes. With this research could come a better asphalt mix that does not deteriorate due to temperature and elements. It would save continuous repair and federal and state funds for road repairs. With the money saved with this cause, we could put another layer of research into other aspects of life. If we can’t have smooth roads, it’s hard to imagine funding NASA. (I’m spending a lot of time in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area where pot holes are horrible)


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (10:43 pm)

    One can see the Goppers have no valid answers to story that we need to invest in technology & reduce our dependence on oil. The same ole Lib charge but not look at the reality. watching too much Fix news which is total lies and bs will do that to anyone. That is why Gop need Fox news media, rush, beck to keep on perpetuating the lies with even bigger lies.
    It is true that as China/India grows and their middle class has $$ to buy cars (you are talking a billion people ready to buy car) supply of oil will go down at a faster pace & price up. For west the only solution is to cut dependence on oil and move to alt sources of energy. Private sector will not put the $$ for this…. what happened to Bush tax cuts to millionares in trillions to create jobs but when was leaving ECONOMY COLLAPSED. 8 yrs of tax cuts to wealthy did not do anything and it will be same if the tax cuts to them are renewed.
    hard for many Gop bs to accept the logic. I know oh well….


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:00 pm)

    VoltSkeptic: Wow so I guess the graph below (from NYT) is complete lie.

    No, your graph is 100% accurate.

    For example, even though President Obama escalated wars in Afghanistan and Yemen, plus helped NATO attack Libya, he didn’t spend a single dime. Sure was nice of President Bush to loan him all that money!

    Even more amazing, his $787 billion stimulus bill only cost $711 billion. They had a 10% discount on stimulus packages that week.

    And just look at the way tax revenue dived after those irresponsible Bush tax cuts:

    $1.69 trillion in tax revenues in 1995 <– Start of .COM bubble
    $1.77 trillion in tax revenues in 1996
    $1.89 trillion in tax revenues in 1997
    $2.04 trillion in tax revenues in 1998
    $2.14 trillion in tax revenues in 1999
    $2.31 trillion in tax revenues in 2000 <– Peak Clinton revenue, start of .COM crash
    $2.22 trillion in tax revenues in 2001 <– Bush tax cut #1
    $2.03 trillion in tax revenues in 2002
    $1.90 trillion in tax revenues in 2003 <– Bush tax cut #2
    $1.95 trillion in tax revenues in 2004
    $2.15 trillion in tax revenues in 2005
    $2.32 trillion in tax revenues in 2006
    $2.41 trillion in tax revenues in 2007 <– Peak Bush revenue
    $2.29 trillion in tax revenues in 2008 <– Start of housing/credit crash

    Wait a minute … Bush’s tax revenues were *higher* than Clinton’s.

    On second thought, maybe your graph *is* a complete lie.


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    Apr 10th, 2012 (11:38 pm)

    Jackson: NYT: The Liberal’s Fox News.

    That’s an unfair comparison.

    CNN is the liberal’s Fox News. NYT is more like Pravda. ;-)


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    Apr 11th, 2012 (12:22 am)

    Bonaire:
    Here’s where I want research.I’d like roads that do not cough up pot holes.With this research could come a better asphalt mix that does not deteriorate due to temperature and elements.It would save continuous repair and federal and state funds for road repairs.With the money saved with this cause, we could put another layer of research into other aspects of life.If we can’t have smooth roads, it’s hard to imagine funding NASA.(I’m spending a lot of time in the NiagaraFalls/Buffalo area where pot holes are horrible)

    Concrete roads are stronger and more durable than asphalt – but they cost more initially, so the short-term thinking encouraged by American politics tends to favor asphalt – less taxes NOW, big problems later.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_surface#Concrete

    For people that think “Government is the problem”, you tend to get shoddy, cheap work.


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    Apr 11th, 2012 (12:33 am)

    Jeff Cobb: Jackson,

    Please read comment #14.

    “This is a philosophical question. No where do I bash one party or the other. If an idea is good, it should transcend partisan bickering.”

    I am really sorry you feel this was a political post. It was actually about broad questions that no where say a thing about Democrats or Republicans.

    It was an open invite for people to suggest things in a dignified and respectful manner.

    You still have that potential. The question of whether government should boost industry can be answered with reasoned responses, and need not go down hill.

    I think the article was great. Very fact-filled and thought provoking. I will agree with Jackson also though because there is a big question re: Who gets funding. In fact, companies and factions can contribute large sums in various clandestine and straight forward ways, thus getting their company funded. The big partisan debate is who is cherry-picking which company/industry will succeed and who will fail due to lack of government funding – and why. Remember Aptera and Bright Automotive? Just to mention two.

    Follow the money – it’s not hard to do.

    So where I agree with Jeff, I also see Jackson’s astute points.

    RECHARGE! ,

    James


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    Bob Goldschmidt

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    Apr 11th, 2012 (1:44 am)

    Over two-thirds of our industries are directly traceable to the technology developed for the lunar landing. The internet was developed by DARPA. Here are industries created by federal investment:

    Japan — Video, Cars, Batteries, computers
    Korea — Video, Cars
    China — Solar, Batteries, computers

    They certainly had failures along the way but pressed on.

    I hear all kind of complaints about the $7500 subsidy for the Volt while Japan is subsidizing their electric cars by $13,000.


  58. 58
    pat

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    Apr 11th, 2012 (5:21 am)

    I walked into a Hundai dealership to check …during lunch hour ..was looking at 2 SUV both priced above $30K …hmmm compared to these prices VOLT is hands down a better car with new technology, little gas use plus lot of savings in maintenance over the years .. & folks complain about cost! Folks look at the car price in papers or ads which dont mean much as we all know once you walk in to a dealership you get the shock hmmm so much over the advertised price .. we all know the game..

    Anywho it was interesting to note that a new model of VOLT will be out next year? Hope someone from GM reads many useful comments here and input from users to incorporate in the new VOLT model.


  59. 59
    Jean-Charles Jacquemin

     

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    Apr 11th, 2012 (10:52 am)

    Noel Park,

    Well said Noel, (+1) to you in your tradition.

    best regards,

    JC NPNS


  60. 60
    Jean-Charles Jacquemin

     

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    Apr 11th, 2012 (10:58 am)

    Texas,

    I do not agree with you Texas, innovation creates a non-zero sum game instead. Competition for energy sources always existed but innovation can enable progress in renewable energies and change the game, if the West can innovate in this direction and reduce its need for oil, the game is positive sum game.L

    Best regards
    JC NPNS


  61. 61
    Jean-Charles Jacquemin

     

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    Apr 11th, 2012 (11:00 am)

    Noel Park: #42

    True that.+1

    OK Noel but who gets dividends from Apple shares ?

    Best regards,

    JC NPNS


  62. 62
    lousloot

     

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    Apr 11th, 2012 (11:52 am)

    wow!

    first off, you guys rock! I was expecting this board to deteriorate completely! Was this the moderator being busy?
    I hope not!

    #55 Truman, I prefer asphalt. You can reuse the old stuff and it doesn’t crack and turn into rubble like concrete.
    PROBLEM! asphalt is getting expensive.

    DARPA rocks! Challenges and prizes are the way to go.

    The “who benifits” argument is a 0 sum argument. We All benefit!

    Polarization/politics is getting worse — I thought the current administration was going to work on that.. ???

    Drop the (sorry moderator)Effen POLITICS and do whats right!


  63. 63
    Truman

     

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    May 2nd, 2012 (9:35 pm)

    Should the Government Invest In Technology Research?

    Yes, for strategic research areas that smaller, profit-driven organizations can’t or won’t tackle.