Saturday, February 4, 2012

Look World -- No Oil!

A colleague told me that he is not in favor of the government getting behind electric cars.
The reason he gave is that "bureaucracies don't pick winners or losers well."

I agree with him on that count. There are some things that are best left to the markets to decide ground up, than to bureaucracies to dictate top-down. However, there are some other things that require co-operation that is not possible without government. We would never have made it to the Moon, if President Kennedy hadn't launched that initiative, and committed us to that path. Markets are short-sighted, and fickle. Necessary things that require long-term vision and sustained effort would go undone, to disastrous consequences, if policy were left entirely up to the markets to decide.

So why should we move to electric cars? We should move to electric cars, because having electric cars implies having a new grid. We need a new grid, for defense reasons.

The Eastern Seaboard Power Outage of 2003 has shown the extent to which the current North American grid is vulnerable to software failure. If China's cyber-army decided to attack tomorrow, we'd back in the stone age, without a life lost, or a shot fired. Supreme excellence!
A new, more robust grid is urgently needed, or we are sitting ducks.

In the long term, it is in America's best interest to become non-dependent on foreign oil.
So as long as we are building a new grid, we might as well move towards electric cars.

Moving to electric cars, however, will require that enough energy be available on the grid.
So energy companies are likely to profit. It is at this point that the government can step in, with a stick and carrot, and steer us towards clean energy sources. The markets, as usual, will allocate funds between various clean energy research alternatives.

The economy is recovering slowly, and the USA is in need of more new jobs.
Money that the Department of Defense allocates can come with the restriction -- contract work for US citizens and legal residents only.

I see crowdsourcing as a means, not an end in itself. The goal should be to move to electric cars. How we get there should be decided by the markets.

So why should we move to electric cars?
For the same reason we went to the Moon -- so America can flex its technological muscle. Look world; no oil! America should lead the way to an oil-free future.