For those of you who, like me, watch very little commercial news television, here’s a sample of reporting to consumers on the energy industry. This happens to concern Solyndra – a debacle that’s thrown a cold swimming pool of water on the already floundering US renewable energy industry.
Btw, I’d love to know how this happened in the first place. I talk to people in the private sector all the time who swear they saw this train-wreck coming far in advance. At a meeting I had with Kleiner Perkins managing partner Ray Lane earlier this year, he told me, “We knew that technology wouldn’t scale. We had been telling the DoE that for over a year, but no one would listen.”
So what are we to believe? That the public sector knew this too but made it happen for “political purposes?” Sorry, I think there’s more to the story than that. Yet God help me if I can add more clarity. I feel rather like those trying to figure out the JFK assassination; I know what didn’t happen, but not exactly what did.
I thought the DoE spokesperson did a good job in this piece in his handling the question: Shouldn’t the market, rather than government, pick the winners and losers in technology? This is a parallel question to: ought our government to support the development of technologies?
The spokesperson points out that it’s not a matter of “should” or “ought.” It’s a matter of fact. This is precisely what the governments of the large countries in Asia and Europe are, in fact, doing. The question is: Do we Americans want to do the same, or sit on the sidelines while we become irrelevant in the 21st Century global energy industry? Personally, I think he’s nailed this one.
But making this happen will be exceptionally difficult given the political climate, and voter expectation. Let’s examine those expectations for a second.
Except for the dwindling few of Americans who lived through the Great Depression, most of us have been exceptionally privileged with an outrageously high standard of living. And in the process, we’ve demonstrated a near-complete lack of attention to sustainability and an utter disregard for the consequences of over-consumption and under-preparation. So now we expect our elected leaders to bring us back from the precipice? We think someone’s going to win an election on an “austerity” platform, and force us to reduce the ridiculous levels of gluttony that all of us take for granted? Even if there were such a person, he couldn’t get elected dogcatcher.
Recall that cold swimming pool of water I mentioned? Get ready to be thrown into it.