NREL’s role in guiding US government to pick winning clean energy technology choices

The role of government is to nurture the common good.  Really.  The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution describes the role of government to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Therefore, isn’t it within the duties of government policy to encourage good desirable results, and to discourage undesirable results?  When we provably know fossil fuel consumption causes a wide range of negative environmental effects, health impacts, and is making the climate hotter, all of which threaten our very existence, isn’t it the role of government to change policies and encourage a different energy paradigm?

I’m thinking about this because the Heartland Institute (a noted climate-change-denial thought machine) sent me a press release full of quotes from their so-called experts decrying President Obama’s latest budget proposal.  That proposal includes

a $10/barrel tax on oil; $1.3 billion for the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), which includes $750 million for the Green Climate Fund; a doubling of spending on clean energy research from $6.4 billion to $12.8 billion; $75 billion for universal pre-school and $9.6 billion for Head Start, both record levels, and $61 billion for “free” community college; and more spending on Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act.

To my eye all these are great ideas, why didn’t the Obama Administration start with this 7 years ago?  To the Heartland Institute (whom we could rename the Heartless Institute?) it’s the end of the world, time to start throwing nukes at Obama.  Their so-called experts talk about “a budget written by cronies for cronies at the expense of the people. Higher taxes, more dependency on government, picking winners and losers” — all the old tired canards of these kind of people whose job it is to protect the fossil fuel industry.

That “picking winners and losers” line is interesting since the role of government is to “promote the general welfare”.  That means to discourage those things that harm the general welfare, while encouraging positive results, doesn’t it?  Hence, the role of government is to pick winning technologies over losing technologies.  Note, I said technologies, not companies.

With that in mind, here’s some testimony from NREL on what it is NREL is doing to promote “sustainable transportation.”  It’s cool stuff … cars on the horizon that don’t crash and don’t harm the environment.

To me.. THIS is the role of government – To run research laboratories that help create technologies which help us all.  To help steer industry in positive directions.  To develop the foundational understanding on topics like the environmental impact of existing technologies, so we can collectively make better technology choices in the future.

Unfortunately, much of what this guy said focuses on the Hydrogen Economy (fuel cells, hydrogen fueling infrastructure, etc).  While fuel cells are cool, I don’t think they’re suitable for small mobile applications like passenger cars.

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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

One Comment

  1. David, I agree, hydrogen sounds cool as a fuel but in reality, probably just leads us back to the old “fill er up” mentality we have become addicted to for the last 100 years. Not sure how much energy it takes to create hydrogen but have been told it is enough to power your electric car, so why not just cut out a step and use the power to recharge batteries. Your car can be charged at home during the night when electric usage drops and you don’t need to stop at the carryout.

    I have worked for an electric utility company that owns one of the nation’s largest coal generating fleets and can say, they have spend billions installing pollution reduction equipment. They are also investing heavily in gas, wind, and solar generation. With the recent court ruling on the EPA’s CO2 emissions, I fear this transformation may slow in the near future.

    http://bsccomment.com/2016/02/12/us-supreme-court-blocks-obama-carbon-emissions-plan.html

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