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Lectric Cars, Hydrogen Bombs and Foolish Investments

There are only two choices when it comes to government action: light regulation or absolute totalitarian control.

Whenever government pretends to have "the answer" to some perceived problem I always think about Jurassic Park. No, not because the state can be a rapacious devourer of our capital or because most difficulties require the touch of a surgeon not the blunderbuss of action. It’s because the creator of Jurassic Park assures his guests that the dinosaurs can not reproduce, "They are all females." Jeff Goldblum, the film’s skeptic comments, "Life will find a way." Goldblum’s character may be a cynic but what he says applies to mankind. People, humans, men will find a way in the face of obstacles. If those people are free then their solutions will come quicker but even the Soviet Union had an underground class of merchants, traders and fixers who found a way around the system.

When people talk about government funding for research and development they point with pride to such government accomplishments as the TVA, Hoover Dam, the hydrogen bomb, the space program and the Internet. But before we get enamored with what government can accomplish, wouldn’t it be wise to examine the actual achievements and see if there are any lessons to be learned. For starters, electrifying the Tennessee Valley was nothing more than creating a federal agency to string wires and build power plants in rural America. The technology had been invented and refined over 60 years. Hoover Dam was a large scale engineering project managed but not accomplished by the government. The hydrogen bomb (and it’s precursor the atomic bomb) demonstrates that if you give a group of scientists an unlimited budget and focus their attention with a war (hot or cold) they can do wonders. The space program is a marvel of technical development and engineering prowess but most of the work was done by aerospace contractors. Another case of near unlimited funds and a fixed goal, get to the moon before the Soviets. While the internet was spawned by DARPAnet, a cold war program to provide back up communications to the military, it took the creation of the personal computer to make the internet something more than e mail.

Observing our own Jurassic Park, most people call it Congress, one is forced to conclude that all the chattering and posing about the need for government to invest in the development of electric cars is nothing more than hot air. (which may contribute to global warming) If the government is really serious about developing a practical electric car it requires a commitment similar in scale to the efforts to develop the atomic bomb or space travel. It does not require thousands of government employees but it does require thousands of billions of tax dollars. The paltry sums of R&D seed money proposed by even the strongest supporters of government intervention in the market place are a pittance compared to the massive capital requirements of a true effort to breach the scientific and engineering barriers of battery efficiency that will make electric cars practical. In truth electric cars, or hydrogen cars, are nothing more than a demonstration at our expense that the government is "doing something" to address a problem that is not a problem.

If there were a demand for electric cars the market would fill it.

Unless the Congress can repeal the laws of physics and thermodynamics, the electric car and it’s alternative fuel cousins will remain nothing more than an expensive propaganda tool for Democratic politicians.

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