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Sunday, November 13, 2011



My original statement was that the government subsidized entire energy industries to help them gain their footing. That happened many times, successfully. The WaPo article speaks of specific projects, specific failures, which are bound to happen. Such is the nature of both research and business: you invest, you explore, you encounter dead ends. But the failure of certain projects is not enough to say that government efforts "almost always" result in disaster, or that every energy R&D project with government money is a den of corruption.

Donald Pay

Here's the interesting thing about the projects named in the Washington Post article you cite: three of the four projects (Clinch River breeder reactor, Synfuels, and clean coal) have been opposed strongly by the environmental community and supported strongly by conservatives.

Too many "conservatives" want to live in a fossil fuel nanny state, where the government subsidies their 19th energy sources (nuclear and fossil fuel) through the most socialist enterprise of all: the military. Real conservatives understand what's going on here.

Last night we heard the conservative conniption about Iran seeking a nuclear bomb. Iran is doing it under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy program that conservatives have tried to push onto the world.

Stan Gibilisco

"My friend and esteemed fellow columnist at South Dakota Magazine Online, Cory Heidelberger, recently instructed me that government subsidies have always been necessary to bring new technologies online."

Hmmm. I wonder how much government subsidy money, in total, Thomas Edison got?

Donald Pay

Thomas Edison's ideas on distributing direct current electricity lost out to the ideas of Westinghouse, Tesla, and others to distribute alternating current. Edison was an good inventor, but lacked the mathematical and engineering ability needed to develop AC distribution, and his stubbornness and lack of foresight drove Tesla, who did, out of GE. He didn't receive many early government subsidies because he was a bad businessman with a losing idea.

Stan Gibilisco

How much money in outright government subsidies did Nikola Tesla get? How much money in outright government subsidies did George Westinghouse get?

Bill Fleming

Here's a listing of municipal, state, and federally owned utilities, Stan. is that what you mean? Or do you also mean co-ops?: http://www.utilityconnection.com/page2e.asp#agencies

larry kurtz

Hey, Doc: it started with seizing a continent from the original 'greenies' then making it safe for slavery. Nothing like slaughtering a culture or so to build "Machine."


Stan Gibilisco

Bill, I only wondered about the individual inventors. Did they get any government subsidies personally to help them with their research and development? Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, or James Watt, for example? (I honestly don't know. Maybe some of all of them did.)

Bill Fleming

Not sure about the electricity guys, Stan, but for sure the nuclear power inventors did.
I suppose there is an argument there for having thus poisoned the well.

But I'll let others make it.


The issue isn't whether or not government should help research and development of new technologies that will spark growth in the private sector. If there was a reason to believe that we were on the verge of a break through, of course, that would be good spent money......in the form of loans with interest of course.

In our history, government backed loans for private sector business has been a common thing, and most of our techonology advances came from the military, a strictly government funded enterprise. Obviously, the governemnt doesn't hire people in the defense department strictly to do research and development of new technology....they go to the private sector and the university system, althought there has been cases when it is too secretive to do so, like in the development of the first Atom Bomb, but typically they pay the private sector to develop these things for the military.

But I digress...the issue is "bang for the buck." The reason the Solyndra scandal is so bad, is because the government knew it was a loser before they even started, it was all about paying back political donors from Obama's election, and about creating an atmosphere of false progress to be used for political purposes. This is the type of Crony Capitalism that everybody rejects, and this is the type of stuff the government shouldn't be doing with our money.

It is a False Choice arguement anyway, and you all are argueing for not. If it were true that the technology existed or we were even close to the technology to make Wind and Solar a viable solution...the private sector would be all over it already, but they know as of right now it is a loser, and no amount of research dollars from the government is going to change that. The best that can come from this stage in the technology is on the small end, (i.e. long standing structures that are equiped with self sufficeint wind and solar systems to provide small amounts of energy to do small tasks)

You know that when the government has to provide a tax incentive to a technology for people to use it.......it is a loser! Someday the technology will come around, or the cost of manufacture will get reasonable and you will see more of it, but we are a long time from that point. This is the ridiculousness of the Eco-Nazi's and EnviroPsysco's, they foolishly attempted to make the idiot masses beleive that these were viable solutions....when if fact they could care less about any of that, their agenda was political...an attack on the Free Market and the redistribution of Americas Wealth in energy and resources.

Donald Pay

Surprisingly, Jimi, I can agree with your first three paragraphs. Then you go off the rails.

It appears at least several people in the Energy Department and the White House knew the Solyndra deal was riskier than was being let on. The people who hate this the most are those who support solar energy and government efforts in support of alternative energy sources.

Ken Blanchard

Cory: the history of government support for economic enterprises is one long tale of corruption and loss. I don't doubt that government can do some good when it invests in basic research and when it tries to create a favorable legislative environment for new industries. When it tries to create new industries, well, see my next post.

Donald: conservatives have been critical of all the projects you mention. If you mean by conservatives, Republicans, you have a point. That only proves that both parties are bad at venture capitalism and susceptible to corruption, a point I will readily concede.

Donald Pay

KB, nearly all conservatives came very late to opposition to the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. They led cheers for the project, and saved it over the objections of the Carter Administration. Reagan supported the project, but it finally became so expensive that even he threw in the towel.

Synfuels did have some conservative opposition in the House of Representatives, mainly because Carter proposed it. However, you would have been hard pressed to find a conservative in the Dakotas opposing synfuels. Much like with the Keystone XL pipeline, Dakota conservatives were mostly bought off.

Clean coal, of course, is an impossibility. It's main supporters are the typical resource extraction companies, utilities using coal, etc, which tend to support conservative Republicans. There is some token opposition by fiscal conservatives, but again the Dakotas' conservatives are heavily invested in the concept of clean coal.

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