Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Forcing Research and Development

The Obama administration continues to act as though research and development of alternative sources of energy can be forced and ordered up on demand. There are several things wrong with that idea. First and foremost is the fact the creative mind doesn't work very well with a gun to its head. There is also the fact that R&D effort has been devoted over many years to alternatives such as hydroelectricity, wind, solar, geothermal, fuel cell, fission and fusion nuclear, and tidal energy. A good bit of the R&D work has been done by members of the oil industry one of which I worked for over 30 years. The Obama administration has wasted billions on solar energy projects that have gone bust.

Government v. Private Sector R&D

The only government managed research project that has ever really succeeded was the Manhattan Project of WWII.  Even then, it took innovative thinking and effort by private sector companies and personnel to get the job done.  Government employees may mean well but sooner or later most of them get all wrapped up in bureaucracy and lose their way as individuals.  General Leslie Groves, an Army Corps of Engineers officer, was in charge of the Manhattan Project, and did everything he could to avoid bureaucratic delays because he never lost sight of the objective. It didn't matter what the problem was, Groves didn't hesitate to step in to help settle it to keep the project on its target time line. The same kind of management prevailed in my private industry experience after the war in building oil refineries around the world.

The Future of Energy

In the real world it will be some time before energy derived from fossil fuels will give way to alternates in most  historic applications.  Nuclear power could supplant fossil fuels in the production of electricity if it weren't for resistance from those who unreasonably fear nuclear power.  Hybrid automobiles are growing in popularity but are not popular with drivers who enjoy size and comfort especially in long distance driving.  The same limitations apply to all-electric vehicles now struggling to gain market acceptance.  Meanwhile, R&D into alternative energy sources should continue in the private sector and it should be allowed to do so with minimum interference from government.      


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