Dr. Quine is quite right. It is essential that a range of technological solutions, including visionary ones, be pursued.
This is exactly why our government, just a bunch of "keystone cops" according to Bill, has recently formed ARPA-E: "Advanced Research Projects Administration - Energy." It follows exactly in the tradition of the venerable DARPA, but rather than visionary military-related proposals it funds visionary alternative energy proposals.
And while we're on the topic of DARPA, lets not forget that DARPA funded the development and deployment of the DARPA-net for decades before it became something called the Internet.
Perhaps the best approach is to look at the long term objective without trying to micromanage the best route to get there. When polio was a national problem, it was tempting to ramp up iron lung production - but the seemingly impossible development of a polio vaccine was a much better long term solution. We need to provide incentives to encourage deployment of the best currently available technologies. We also must ensure that visionary solutions which meet the objectives in unexpected ways are encouraged.
It is true that sometimes governments do take actions that are silly and/or incorrect.
However, in this particular case, Bill's article appears to be a "cheap shot," that mischaracterizes the Senate Bill in order to manufacture a "straw man" that he can then easily shoot down.
Bill does this in the very first line of his article, where he says the proposed Senate bill has provisions "requiring that 50% of cars be all-electric, battery-powered in 20 years" and provides a link to a WSJ article that he claims supports his statement.
In fact, I have read the WSJ article and no where does it mention any such requirement. What the article does say is the following: "The goal is to electrify half the country’s cars and trucks by 2030, which could reduce demand for oil in the U.S. by as much as one-third." A "goal" is very different from a "requirement" and Bill ought to know this.
Funding one option, towards solving our energy problems in the future, in no way means that other options will not be pursued. The Senate Bill only allocates $3.9 billion, over 10 years, towards its goals. Given the very real potential that electric cars could be the transportation method of the future, this does not seem like a particularly large sum.
Resistion and Rich are certainly correct about providing motivations instead of mandates! The first and most obvious challenge of electric vehicles is the energy to charge them. I must come from some place. That is one unpleasant reality that is certain to cause a lot of pain. So far, I have not heard or seen any rational description of where this quantity of energy will come from. I have heard all sorts of descriptions about quite expensive energy sources, but those are proposed as alternatives to the present sources. So once again, it is time to stand up and say "You have a good idea, jnow show us a plan to implement it".
The surest way to bring electric cars into very widespread use is to exempt them from many of the stupid safety mandates that burden current vehicles. Unfortunately, the same legislatures also believe that individuals should not be responsible for the results of their actions.
The committee should have done something like provide tax incentives for gas-free electric car development. What if the goals are not met? Is it the carmaker rather than consumer or taxpayer that pays?
It is reasonable for society, through it's legislators as one directive mechanism, to set major goals ("go to the moon in this decade"). However, such successes encourage the hubris of thinking that direction equals outcome. Attempting to dictate too many parameters leads to failure ("you can have it fast, cheap, or good - but not all 3 at the same time").
Setting such goals is the need of the day, with the depletion of natural resources. And who knows such "diktats" might lead to the invention of newer technologies which can help the mankind to enjoy luxury & also co-exist with nature.
The engineering community should take this as a challenge & come out with tangible results in the said amount of time. A couple of decades is a fair time limit for us to "deliver"......
I agree with you Bill. However, I would not want to diminish the importance of goals (even politically driven ones) in advancing science and engineering. What is wrong in this legislation is that it is dictating pretty much everything: the technology and the market share. This is simply unrealistic and quite frankly stupid.
There is an old saying that goes - "never trust a politician any further than you can throw him". That ain't very far, and gets even shorter with a group of them (legislature, senate, what have you). Yet they continue to ask us to trust them with (fill in the blanks).
To the point that legislative fiat can bring retribution for failure, I would like to somehow see said "legislators" suffer retribution way beyond just being un-elected or un-appointed. That might slow them down a bit....but I doubt it. The temptation is just too great.
Our current banking system is largely fiat money that is "declared" money by the government. It is not backed by anything but promises and deceit, allowing the government can spend more then they take in through taxes. The recent bailouts of big banks and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae show that those who engage in the money fiat structure make the rules and shove the consequences on the rest of us while they get off without real penalty.