Of course I believe in clean energy. What I don't believe in is the dictator attitude of "certain politicians." They are to represent us, not to spoon-feed us.
Solyndra got a whopping $535M loan guarantee from Sam. Way, way more than what any other investor provided to them. Check this out, if you don't believe me.
And yet, I would not have given them a penny, just as I would not give the "Iris Engine" program a penny. (Check that one out too, while you're at it.)
I'll repeat that politicians are clueless about what makes good technical/economic sense in the commercial marketplace. They have no business throwing our money around this way. They should stick to their assigned jobs, and WE are the ones that assign them their jobs.
One of my points was that they didn't "single out" Solyndra. It was one of many under the program, and truly a drop in the bucket compared to all technology investment.
I'm fully in agreement with you that the specifics of the Solyndra deal should be investigated, not only the vetting ahead of time but also the renegotiation after the fact putting private investors ahead of taxpayers. If there was wrongdoing, people should be out on the street or in jail. Am I confident that will happen... NO. If people get away with wrongdoing would that upset me... YES.
I get the fact that you don't believe in clean energy. I would presume it is because you don't believe in the science community's validity with regard to climate change. I believe you are applying very biased standards regarding government spending in this area.
The horrors... an administration does something that matches what they said they would do when they won the popular vote. That's exactly how a democracy is supposed to work. Reagan spent money on defense, matching his campaign rhetoric. JFK spent money on sending man to the moon, matching his political rhetoric. That seems a strawman to tarnish something with the fact that it had been used as political rhetoric. It was Obama's rhetoric because he believed it and he knew a majority of American's agreed with it.
All money spent by the government is as "yanked" away as any other dollar spent by the government. Restating my basic point... if one looks in totality at the money "yanked" away from tax payers and spent on science and technology, we have been paid back with a vast reward that dwarfs the amount "yanked". I would hope those in our community would recognize that and would not participate in what I feel has become politically motivated bashing of government support of science and technology.
(I'll make this my last post as I'm sure everyone is sick of the back and forth)
No, actually my argument is that VCs take a risk. They invest money from willing participants, and they take a risk with that money. If I don't like what a VC is doing, I'm free to stay out of it.
In the Solyndra case, that money was yanked away from taxpayers, and poured into this venture, no questions asked.
If legitimate VCs behave that way, they either go out of business, or perhaps they even go to jail. Do you see anyone from the government out on the streets, for this fiasco?
Some amount of industrial policy, trade agreements, and the like, are legitimate functions of the government, IMO. But singling out one company, and giving it enormous amounts of taxpayers' money, just because that company's sales pitches match your campaign rhetoric, is inexcusable.
First, I don't think the government intended to be the one that would pick winners and losers in that loan guarantee program. I think having some of each in the mix would have been expected. From what little I've read about the overall program it would seem that the percentage of failures is unlikely to be any higher than most VCs... in fact probably much lower. Though perhaps you'd argue that VCs are incompetent at picking because of low success rate. One should probably look at the overall goal before making such judgement. For VCs the goal is to make more money overall than they have invested. For the government it is to promote the development of a particular industry as a whole.
Do you feel that all governments are incompetent at promoting industry or is that something peculiar to the American character? It certainly seems that governments around the world are being very successful with far more active industrial policies than we have in the U.S.
We disagree, PJames. Pouring money into Solyndra was NOT done because the government wanted to buy their panels. It was done only to "show" how committed this administration was to its campaign promises.
The government has no business picking winners and losers in the commercial marketplace. They are incompetent at that job.
And you can quibble about the SIZE of the DoD, but not about its function. If you argue that it's far larger than it needs to be today, I would totally agree. The budget, largely because of two unnecessary wars, is easily twice what it needs to be. But that function does belong in the government.
If the government were only funding pure, basic research in PV, I wouldn't be so outraged about it. The fact that they thought they could dictate which commercial ventures should be successful is, on the other hand, beyond defending.
To me it seems inaccurate to state that Solyndra is an example of the government "getting" involved for political motives. After all, the government has had involvement in the solar PV industry dating back to when it was an aerospace technology.
Also, on the face of it I don't see anything more political about investment in low carbon energy than investment in a military the size of the U.S. Each is something that one end of the political spectrum would characterize as not a national interest. Either they are both for "political motives" or they are both simply things for which there is a disagreement about necessity. Space exploration is likely something that a minority sprinkled across the political spectrum would consider as being outside the scope of essential government function.
While it is all well and fine to say the government should address "legitimate government function," the problem is that often people define that in terms of their own narrow, and often short sighted, self interests, and/or simply have the view that their own interpretation should prevail over the general will of a democratic populous.
Bad behavior by politicians might have contributed to a bad outcome at Solyndra, that does not indict all of government support of clean energy any more than the numerous scandals in the defense industry that one could cite indict the concept of national defense.
This discussion reminds me of the short guy with the big ears in the 1992 election (Perot for the youngsters here) and his statement about the NAFTA treaty and the big sucking sound as jobs moved out of the U.S. There are a lot of things that are needed to bring manufacturing back into the U.S. These include, but are not limited to:
1. changes to the federal and state rules to make the process of siting and building a factory less difficult, expensive, and drawn-out
2. changes to eliminate or reduce the complex and expensive reporting requirements by state and federal entities that add around 25% overhead to each worker's cost in many states
3. tax incentives rather than penalties for manufacturing product in the U.S.
4. elimination of the "not in my back yard with your factory" attitude taken by many suburban communities that are sprawled all over the countryside of the U.S.
5. elimination of the "one price for China manufacturers and another price for the U.S. manufacturers" that permeates our electronics distributor networks
6. culturing engineers to design products from the ground up for automated and low cost production (I saw at Caterpillar that U.S. made product can be competitive if engineering can design manufacturability with minimal manual assembly into a product; also for example all of us active engineers know that 0603 SMT chip resistors are a LOT less expensive in reels than 1/8W leaded resistors even before assembly and board real-estate are considered)
PJames, (1) I too smell something fishy in the Solyndra debacle. This is a pretty good example of where our government put it to us. Although, that's not fair either: individuals who grossly abused their authority may very well have stolen tax money. However, enough of that for a moment.
Yes, there are a variety of government efforts that paid off. GPS is a pretty good example of the sometimes-hated "military-industrial" unholy alliance bringing something that benefits not only the taxpayers, but much of the rest of the world. And that's not the only example.
As for solar power, you yourself state its limitations: it is economic in sunny climates. What do they do in New York City? It's a niche technology. Wind power? When all the air conditioners are going, there's usually a high pressure area stifling any wind. Another niche technology. Neither are bad: both are oversold.
Will cost reductions continue? Probably, for a while. A breakthrough one day in a cheap and efficient solar converter? Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, we have hydro in places, coal in others, and nukes where the population isn't living in 1960s San Francisco.
The labor cost in a fab may be the same where ever the plant is located, BUT the govermental and enviromental costs are VERY different. Like the PCB industry before them , the fab companies dealing with excessive goverment, and EPA, regulations forced them to go else where.
TO see what a difference it makes , go to any large industrial city in China, and take a deep breath. After you are done coughing and choking , you will then know what our rules and regulations protect. Also in China, if you speak up or complain, many times you will not only be ignored you could also disapear. So far that has not started to happen here in the USA. At least not yet!
As we unveil EE Times’ 2015 Silicon 60 list, journalist & Silicon 60 researcher Peter Clarke hosts a conversation on startups in the electronics industry. Panelists Dan Armbrust (investment firm Silicon Catalyst), Andrew Kau (venture capital firm Walden International), and Stan Boland (successful serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Neul, Icera) join in the live debate.