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Computerworld - The U.S. Dept. of Energy has set a goal to develop battery and energy storage technologies that are five times more powerful and five times cheaper than today's within five years.

To accomplish this, U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu is taking some lesson from U.S. history.

The DOE is creating a new Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, at a cost of $120 million over five years, that's intended to reproduce development environments that were successfully used by Bell Laboratories in the World War II Manhattan Project that produced an atomic bomb.

"When you had to deliver the goods very, very quickly, you needed to put the best scientists next to the best engineers across disciplines to get very focused," said Chu at a press conference Friday that was streamed live from Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The center will be located there.

The Battery and Energy Storage Hub project will involve six national labs, five universities -- Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, and University of Michigan -- and four private firms, Dow Chemical, Applied Materials, Johnson Controls, and Clean Energy Trust.

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9234200/DOE_wants_5X_...

OK. I like this approach.

Peter
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Love it. Looks like President Obama's administration is continuing his forceful expansion of the clean energy economy. I think the money is well spent, with awesome potential return, though there will be disappointments, too, along the way.
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You'd be hard-pressed to come up with something private industry is more excited about pouring money and research into than better batteries. There is exactly zero need for the government to get involved.

It's interesting that Chu lists Bell Labs as a major player in the Manhattan Project. It's the first time I've ever seen anyone do that. Doubtless he thinks invoking the name Bell Labs conjures up warm-and-fuzzies. Usually, the feds use the Moon Landing when they want warm-and-fuzzies for some new federal project. That's probably no good anymore since SpaceX has shown that private industry does space faster, cheaper, and better than the feds ever did.

Previously, you had a lot of people saying: sure, the feds did a big space program, but private industry could have done it better and cheaper. But one could always counter with: no, it couldn't, only the feds could have pulled it off. That counter-argument is no good anymore, now that someone has actually, you know, done it successfully.

Chu's home solar panel comment was also bizarre. "Chu said he did some calculations and said with battery storage improvements someone could halve the number of solar panels on their roof..." Of course, your typical home solar-electric system doesn't have batteries at all. They use "the grid" to take up excess production and to make up for shortfalls, and "the grid" doesn't use batteries to do so (typically). "...you can be 80% self-sufficient and blackout immune". Yes, you would need a huge improvement in the cost of batteries to power an entire house during a blackout, but people can already be "blackout immune" for a fairly modest cost using readily-available generators, and hardly anyone does... so there's obviously not a huge market for this feature.

Phil
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That counter-argument is no good anymore, now that someone has actually, you know, done it successfully.

=====================

SpaceX has the advantage of 50 years of rocket/space technology development paid for by US government. SpaceX is no different than other US government contractors who were paid for development:

For example:

"More than 500 contractors worked on both large and small aspects of Apollo. For example, the Boeing Company was the prime contractor for the first stage of the Saturn rocket, North American Aviation for the second stage, and the Douglas Aircraft Corporation for the third stage. The Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation was responsible for the rocket engines and International Business Machines for the instruments. These prime contractors, with more than 250 subcontractors, provided millions of parts and components for use in the Saturn launch vehicle, all meeting exacting specifications for performance and reliability."

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/101space/101facts1...

SpaceX is a NASA contractor.

"SpaceX is the world's fastest-growing provider of launch services. Profitable and cash-flow positive, the company has nearly 50 launches on its manifest, representing about $4 billion in contracts. These include commercial satellite launches as well as NASA missions."

http://www.spacex.com/company.php

US government programs gave us nuclear power, hydro electric dams, electrical power grid, interstate highways, railroads, military weapons, etc.

Private industry feeds of the US government's breasts! Just listen to complaints of military contractors about the fiscal cliff.

jaagu
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jaagu,

That counter-argument [that only the feds could have done a space project] is no good anymore, now that someone [private] has actually, you know, done it [a space project] successfully. — Radish

SpaceX has the advantage of 50 years of rocket/space technology development paid for by US government. — jaagu


Let's see if I follow this. In the early 2000's, NASA had "the advantage of 50 years of rocket/space technology development paid for by US government" when it started its Constellation/Orion/Ares project. Also in the early 2000's, did SpaceX have "the advantage of 50 years of rocket/space technology development paid for by US government"? Let's be generous and say it did. OK, what next? SpaceX's Falcon9/Dragon has had two successful missions to the International Space Station and back, and is on schedule to be human-rated (indeed, the Dragon has already had inside it, well, astronauts in space). NASA's Constellation program has... failed almost completely.

They both started with the same advantages (arguably, NASA started with more, well, "NASA experience" than SpaceX did). One is a great continuous success story. The other is a typical story of government failure.

US government programs gave us nuclear power, hydro electric dams, electrical power grid, interstate highways, railroads, military weapons, etc.

Actually the huge dams at Niagra Falls were entirely privately built before the US Government built any hydroelectric dams of any consequence. The electrical power grid was also privately built until the federal government stepped in and took over... resulting in a horribly messed up system (according to the builders at the time; read "Tuxedo Park" by Jennet Conant) which we suffer from even to this day. The US railroads were also largely privately built; when the feds meddled in the transcontinental railroad system by giving away huge land grants in a pointless race the result was a complete disaster (much of that track ultimately had to be ripped out and completely rebuilt).

And of course the feds purposely used uranium for nuclear power even though clearly thorium was a safer and cleaner process (the waste products of a pure thorium reactor stay radioactive for a relatively short time compared to the tens of thousands of years for waste uranium). The feds did this because they wanted the weapons by-products of uranium reactors. In theory, people could start from scratch and design thorium reactors now, but private industry is afraid of the heavy-handed regulation the feds have thrown at nuclear reactors so far.

What's that leave from your list? Interstate highways and the vague "military weapons", whatever that means. Seizing land from unwilling owners was certainly an advantage in building the interstates, but historically we know the railroads managed significant runs without having that ability. No way of saying for sure now whether the interstates would be better, cheaper, or both had they been done privately (perhaps in conjunction with eminent domain land acquisitions). It's clearly not a slam-dunk that the government did a better job than could have been done entirely privately.

One thing is certain: fully-private projects are funded entirely by willing investors and willing customers. No one is forced to pay for them against their will. Government projects and government-funded projects are, by and large, funded by money taken involuntarily from taxpayers (or by bonds, but the bonds and their interest are ultimately at the cost of involuntary taxpayers). There should be one heck of a compelling reason for doing something if you're going to force other people to pay for it. Developing new batteries, even if this project succeeds (which isn't all that likely), simply isn't that compelling.

Phil
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Phil writes: NASA's Constellation program has... failed almost completely.

====================================

The Constellation program was cancelled even though the astronaut community vigorously supported Constellation program. Therefore, your comparison is meaningless.

Where do you think the SpaceX got its engineers? They got the people who worked on the Constellation program. In Los Angeles it was a common practice for engineers to move around from one government aerospace contractor to another based on who got the latest government contract. My UCLA engineering school buddies went to work for those aerospace companies.

You seem to think that SpaceX is somehow a pure non government related company. SpaceX would not exist if it were not for the government business they are doing.

As for private enterprise being more successful than the government in aerospace projects, you should read about Motorola's Iridium project failure.

jaagu
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jaagu,

SpaceX would not exist if it were not for the government business they are doing.

That's not what Elon Musk says. I'd think he would know.

As for private enterprise being more successful than the government in aerospace projects, you should read about Motorola's Iridium project failure.

I'm reasonably familiar with it. It's a great example of just how big a project private companies can take on if they so choose... even if it isn't a great example of commercial success for the original investors (of course the satellites are still in use today). If I recall correctly, the total number of dollars lost by involuntary investors was roughly $0. How many dollars were lost by involuntary investors (that is, the taxpayers) in NASA's Constellation project? Was it, say, more than even the willing investors voluntarily lost at the beginning of Iridium?

Phil
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Phil writes:

Actually the huge dams at Niagra Falls were entirely privately built before the US Government built any hydroelectric dams of any consequence.

================================

Woopie-do!

The government financed the planning, design and construction of the Columbia River dams, Colorado River dams, Missouri River dams, Tennessee River dams, California dams, and many others. I am sure you have heard of the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Of course you know that the government hires contractors to actually do the construction. Here is some history on our large federal dams:

http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/dams/federal_dams...

jaagu
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jaagu,

Woopie-do!

The government financed the planning, design and construction of the Columbia River dams, Colorado River dams, Missouri River dams, Tennessee River dams, California dams, and many others.


But there was no reason for the government to do so. That was proven by the Niagra Falls projects and others. Did the government do these projects better and cheaper than private companies would have? Who can know, now?

Of course you know that the government hires contractors to actually do the construction.

Yes, and so do private companies when they do large projects. But they use their own money to hire them, not money taken from other people whether they like it or not.

Phil
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Rather than argue whether public or private is the "best" way to achieve this goal...

I do not think that anyone will get even close to this goal. Seriously, after all the attention batteries have gotten over the last 20 years from car batteries, laptop batteries, phone batteries, etc. and they have plugged along at somewhere around 5% gains per year...let's be generous and say 10%.

Somehow, an energy guy waves his hand and we'll get 500% in 5 years. And the cost will drop by 5x at the same time? And is the 5 years till proof of concept or commercialization? I think with a prototype in hand it would take 2-3 years to fully characterize the right way to control the charging and discharging for the life of a car. And if it is grid storage somehow it will work for this, too? (Makes no sense, these are very different design goals)

While I think it is a good idea to improve batteries, I don't see what the government is bringing to the table here except money. Is there a new chemistry that has been somehow neglected by all the universities that didn't want to spin off a few patents to a startup? MIT has spun off a few battery companies, IIRC, such as A123.

Have we just not made the big breakthrough in batteries because the best and brightest haven't been working on them? And now they will?

I think that within 5 years, without this, we'll get maybe a 2x improvement in density/size/weight and maybe a 2-3 x drop in price. So this initiative needs to be "graded" on how much over and above this it achieves IMO.

The problem is that these type of things never get "graded."

Mike
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Mike they have plugged along at somewhere around 5% gains per year...let's be generous and say 10%.
...
I think that within 5 years, without this, we'll get maybe a 2x improvement in density/size/weight and maybe a 2-3 x drop in price.


If private industry reaches the goal in the second sentence, it would represent a considerable improvement over the rate of recent progress (as described in the first sentence).

In other words the baseline for comparison of a five year "Manhattan Project" would be five more years of the same kind or progress we have seen. 5% to 10% per year.

Peter
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Iridium 'technically' works fine.

It's just that the business case from day 1 was flawed. They approached the company I worked for. We looked at it seriously and found that there was no way that they could ever make money on it. Not enough subscribers with 'lack of terrestrial coverage' to ever make money.

Their basic premise was there would be enough 'unserved' area in the US to pay for the system, and usage everywhere else would never break even. Turns out that PRIVATE companies in the US build out cellular to just about everywhere where folks could afford $30/month to pay for basic service.

Their business case evaporated.


Running a large satellite company is a high risk business. WOrse, their 1 in a million calculated odds of a space craft collision turned out to be a lot worse....one of their expensive satellites was wiped out by a defunct soviet satellite. NOw, it's likely a 1 in 10,000 chance of another collision.....

3 other satellite 'cellular' like systems either never made it off the ground or went bust.

If it weren't for the US gov't propping up Iridium.......(taxpayers - you and me) it would have been shut off long ago.

---

The first 'super highways' were toll roads. WV tollroad. PA tollroad. CT Tollroad. NJ Turnpike. Del turnpike. not freebies. OH and IN and IL turnpikes. ALl over the country...going back to 1700s.....

Same for ferries and bridges....you paid a toll to use them. Mostly privately operated and built.


t.
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There should be one heck of a compelling reason for doing something if you're going to force other people to pay for it. Developing new batteries, even if this project succeeds (which isn't all that likely), simply isn't that compelling.


I think that improving clean energy technology, including batteries, is a fitting project for large federal investment: the benefits are multiple and widespread, including helping people who were unable to help themselves and helping in the national security arena.

So, I support this project, though I agree the 5x5x5 goal is wildly optimistic.

I also would support a more hands-off approach of removing all subsidies from all energy sources and technology while implementing a green-house gas tax/tariff on all products at the point they enter the market.

Fat chance getting Congress to agree on that, though.
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You'd be hard-pressed to come up with something private industry is more excited about pouring money and research into than better batteries. There is exactly zero need for the government to get involved.


On the contrary this kind of exceedingly complex science-based project with long time lines is exactly the kind of situation that can be sped along by having the deep pockets and long-term vision of the feds pulling people together and pushing them forward.

The project is pooling talent from five Department of Energy national laboratories, five universities and four private companies, with about 120 experts who will work their on a regular basis.

The advanced battery industry in the US was non-existent until Obama's stimulus poured billions into jump-starting it. Combine the world-leading research from JCESR with ongoing federal support for commercialization and we will build a viable advanced battery industry here while speeding evolution of products on the market.

Partners include heavy hitters: Dow Chemical Co., Applied Materials Inc. and Johnson Controls Inc., Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, Pacific Northwest, Sandia and SLAC National Accelerator, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan.
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Same for ferries and bridges....you paid a toll to use them. Mostly privately operated and built.

The unstated, and totally relevant, point is simple: These are monopolies. And competition is NOT allowed (because that would make the "private investment" unprofitable). Look at cable TV as a prime example of that.
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The advanced battery industry in the US was non-existent until Obama's stimulus

A123 was founded long before Obama was elected.

Not sure exactly why they went bankrupt other than the basic fact that Toyota is and was selling the most car traction batteries and their supplier was/is Panasonic. The Leaf battery is made by NEC. For the Volt, GM narrowed it down to two companies, A123 and LG Chem and finally chose LG Chem (S Korea) as I recall.

As I see it, A123 and other US battery startups lost out to Japan and Korea, not China. Both Nissan and GM are building a battery factories in the US.

Mike
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In other words the baseline for comparison of a five year "Manhattan Project" would be five more years of the same kind or progress we have seen. 5% to 10% per year.

Fair enough. Even though who know that in 5 years we won't get a full and open accounting for the (most probable) outcome.

I was giving the battery industry a 15% annual improvement rate over the next few years based on the fact that (regardless of US government money) the past 10 years of constantly improving hybrid sales and a few recent EV sales that there are dozens of minor improvement in the pipeline that we don't hear about. We always hear about this or that university research that promises to double or triple performance. And we've heard lots of those in the last decade. (Not so much in the 1990s). These things usually take a decade of more to really prove out the engineering and manuafacturing.

It is also possible (maybe far fetched) that Steven Chu knows about some of these things from years ago that are in serious development at the companies really making a lot of batteries and this whole thing is a chance to jump out in front of the parade and look like a leader.

But Panasonic (Toyota supplier), NEC (Nissan supplier) and LG Chem (GM Volt supplier) are all from Japan or Korea.

Mike
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You know, the bottom line with this subject really is (IMHO) that we will eventually get to the point where a majority of the vehicles on our roads are electrically driven. Eventually. And with the proposed government project added onto industries' efforts, we will get there sooner. The sooner the better. In the meantime we are burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, and bio fuels to boot. There is a HUGE paradigm shift under way here, and history will rate this shift as colossal as about any we have seen.

Now, some may say that this shift will bring problems along with the good. Which is true. Electric power production and transmission for example. But that challenge may not be as great as it appears; imagine the increased incentive for homeowners and businesses who have an electric vehicle(s) to next want their own rooftop solar "gas" station. Upon successful implementation of these technologies on a huge scale, these industries stand to be in the path of enormous demands, leading to increases in production, and profit. If a government project like this can get us there sooner, it may very well be a good investment.
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"I also would support a more hands-off approach of removing all subsidies from all energy sources and technology"

Great...we should start with all tax breaks and subsidies at the state and fed level for 'solar' in all forms. Outlaw all purchases of solar power at more than market prices for other energy.

We should immediately end all subsidies of the wind power industry and void all contracts that mandate purchase of renewable energy at above market prices.

Consumers should have to have 'greenies' rammed down their throat.

AS to your green house tax..good luck on taxing firewood, which the greeks are now burning in massive quantities to stay warm. THey'll strip the country of forests within 5 years......

Raise heating oil and NG by 25 or 30% and you'll see entire US forests being chopped down and burned.....too...



t.
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Like anything else the advanced technology will be developed in the US.....and after a short time, production moved overseas where it is less expensive (no unions) with less regulations to fool with.

It happened in dozens of industries...the transistor...the integrated circuit...memory chips.....


radios....TV sets.....just about all electronics....

Apple doesn't make a dang thing in this country other than profits.....

QCOM , a US company, does its research here but manufactures overseas.


What makes you think you'll have a viable long term battery industry here?


A123 went bust despite the 'best' technology from MIT....they never could get it the 'chemistry' to work. Nanostructure electrodes were eaten alive by high surge currents.....

ALl the LiON batteries come from overseas companies. The fact that some are 'made' here, likely using stuff sent in from overseas, is nothing but something needed to get US greenie credits to sell the greenie EVs here.


t.
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You know, the bottom line with this subject really is (IMHO) that we will eventually get to the point where a majority of the vehicles on our roads are electrically driven. Eventually.

I agree. I'm already driving a Prius plugin for the past 5 months.
I think that consumers buying the currently available plugin cars is the best message that can be sent to the industry. The cars are available and they work. Yes, they can get better. I'm not sure why we need the government to work on or enable more chemists and engineers to work on them.


Yes, it would be nice if you could charge a EV in 15 minutes then go for 400 miles before needing to recharge. But, the reality is that this is a long long time away. In the mean time most cars sit idel for hours and hours at night and in work parking lots.

Let's walk before we run. A car that goes 10 to 40 miles per charge (with gas backup) will handle most people's needs. A pure EV that goes 50 - 100 miles per charge will handle, maybe 50% of people's commuting needs (not wants). And we have the Tesla class cars that go beyond these. We have these now. We don't have them in numerous sizes, configurations, models, etc at lower enough prices to tempt buyers of all economic levels. So, exactly, why do more research and not just rebate these and their derivitives?

Massive grid storage...we could use this, but have we concluded that "batteries" are the answer?

Mike
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"I also would support a more hands-off approach of removing all subsidies from all energy sources and technology"

Great...we should start with all tax breaks and subsidies at the state and fed level for 'solar' in all forms. Outlaw all purchases of solar power at more than market prices for other energy.


Don't forget to end all tax breaks given to the fossil fuel industries. Oil depletion allowance, anyone?
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OneWhoWaits,

And with the proposed government project added onto industries' efforts, we will get there sooner.

I see no reason to think that.

If a government project like this can get us there sooner, it may very well be a good investment.

What if the government invests in a group of people who are mired in bureaucracy and never achieve any major breakthrough, and meanwhile venture capitalists decide not to invest in a small scientific group with a radical new idea (that would have been a breakthrough) because they don't want to compete with the deep pockets of the Fed? It certainly wouldn't be the first time government money chased away private money. Any honest examination of history shows most innovation is done by private groups; one is hard-pressed to come up with examples of government success. That's why he had to go all the way back to the Manhattan Project for an example.

Mind you, the Manhattan Project started because scientists were concerned that all the relevant science issues for an atomic bomb were complete, and it was just a matter of time before someone built one. So it wasn't really a research project so much as an exercise in finding practical methods for manufacturing (which did, of course, require some research itself).

Phil
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the 'government' decided it wanted the 'be all - end all' programming language in the 1980s.

It spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development of ADA

It forced contractors to use it on all new deliverables to the government.

It pampered start up companies that provided compilers and tools for programming in ADA.


For ten years, the government tried to ram down ADA down the throats of the defense industry.

After more than 10 years of failure, it gave up.


Technology and private industry had so passed it by in that time, that it was simply scrapped. You didn't even have a decent burial for it It went away without even a whimper.


And now you think the same government that gave you ADA will give you batteries five times as good in five years? at 1/5th the price?


t.
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mschmit,

It is also possible (maybe far fetched) that Steven Chu knows about some of these things from years ago that are in serious development at the companies really making a lot of batteries and this whole thing is a chance to jump out in front of the parade and look like a leader.

That's pretty much exactly what happened with LED light bulbs. The electronics industry had already been working on them for years, and pretty much had the next several years mapped out, when the Feds suddenly started their great campaign to promote LED lighting.

I remember that for a few months a bunch of op-ed pieces in the major electronics magazines with people in the LED business saying: what the heck is this? Why is the government "calling" for research that's already been done, and setting up contests to achieve "goals" that are already mapped out in production schedules? Several commented that not one person was going to change even one thing they were doing based on this "new government push".

Ultimately, LED lighting came out on the exact schedule the electronics industry had been working towards, and the government initiatives had no discernible effect. But the government is quick to take credit for "ushering in the LED age". And Philips won a $10 million prize from the government for making a bulb they'd already planned to make anyway (they did have to do a bunch of useless testing to qualify, though).

Meanwhile, here in California, the government forbids the use of screw-type sockets in many lighting applications in new construction and major remodeling. So our house largely has California-compliant pin-type sockets. Which no one makes any LED bulbs for (with the sole exception of the MR16 lights, which are big items in retail lighting). So whenever we want to replace a bulb with an LED bulb, we have to put in a new fixture first. Nice.

Phil
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A123 was founded long before Obama was elected.


And all of their production back then was done by Chinese contract manufacturers.

Not sure exactly why they went bankrupt

When they moved to manufacturing their own batteries there was a problem with the line which they didn't detect until it had ruined or potentially ruined over a hundred of million dollars worth of batteries. Fixing the problem and replacing the batteries bankrupted them.
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Have you seen the new LED retrofit downlights at Home Depot? Two or three different types. Some come with a screw socket to pin converter. They were on sale at HD for $20, now $30

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-203489880/h_d2/Produ...

These were $25:
http://www.homedepot.com/buy/ecosmart-6-in-95-watt-65w-led-d...

The good thing about these LEDs is that they seal the air leaks in the cans.

Mike
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Phil:"
That's pretty much exactly what happened with LED light bulbs. The electronics industry had already been working on them for years, and pretty much had the next several years mapped out, when the Feds suddenly started their great campaign to promote LED lighting.

Ultimately, LED lighting came out on the exact schedule the electronics industry had been working towards, and the government initiatives had no discernible effect. But the government is quick to take credit for "ushering in the LED age". And Philips won a $10 million prize from the government for making a bulb they'd already planned to make anyway (they did have to do a bunch of useless testing to qualify, though)."


The gov't always thinks that by getting 9 women together, then getting them pregnant, you can deliver a baby in just one month. Government think

9 women can have 9 babies in 9 months...so 'simple' liberal math shows you that if you have a crash program, you can have 1 a month for 9 months.




t.
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mschmit,

Some come with a screw socket to pin converter.

A converter that plugs into a screw socket doesn't do me any good when California forbid me to install screw sockets in the first place.

I have slowly been replacing the "eco-friendly" fixtures California required with new fixtures that are, well, eco-friendly in fact rather than "eco-friendly" in government-rating (in that the screw-base LED bulbs take less power and last longer than the pin-base fluorescent bulbs).

Back during construction all the lighting fixture companies said they'd loan me gas-station-bathroom fluorescent fixtures to install for the government inspection, then I could remove them all, return them, and they'd sell me the types of fixtures people actually want. But I turned them down and went with fixtures that actually complied with the laws.

Phil
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"Back during construction all the lighting fixture companies said they'd loan me gas-station-bathroom fluorescent fixtures to install for the government inspection, then I could remove them all, return them, and they'd sell me the types of fixtures people actually want. But I turned them down and went with fixtures that actually complied with the laws."

Now you are stuck with turkeys and in 3 years the eco-whacks will outlaw fluorescents as they have mercury in them.....

and you'll be forced to retrofit new eco-loon approved LEDs instead after replacement bulbs are no longer available.



t
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The cars are available and they work. Yes, they can get better. I'm not sure why we need the government to work on or enable more chemists and engineers to work on them.

The way I look at it is this: what is wrong with spending money: stimulus in a depressed economy, peanut change, $120 million over 5 years to improve US competitiveness in a crucial industry?

I will repeat: the US had essentially no advanced battery industry 4 years ago. Yes, we had some companies with intellectual property, but mass manufacturing of advanced batteries was not done here. Then a tsunami of stimulus money poured into clean energy ventures, including subsidizing purchase of plug-in vehicles and subsidizing building battery factories.

Now we have a nascent advanced battery industry. If Obama continues to push the technology hard, maybe in five years we will actually have a shot at earning significant market share away from the likes of Panasonic.

Massive grid storage...we could use this, but have we concluded that "batteries" are the answer?


Part of the answer, I think, but certainly not the only one. The thing is that if we push automotive then we get mass storage down the road, as a second life for used car batteries. The amount of energy in automotive packs is so big that, even if they only have 60% of their initial energy capacity when they move into a second life on the grid, they add up very quickly into significan assets. Take the Volt. At 16 kilowatt hours energy capacity, that would be reduced to about 10 kwh in its second life. For battery longevity say it's 6 kwh usable energy.

Now, GM is selling ~1,500 Volts per month. Say half, 800 of those batteries are salvaged and repurposed for second life grid use, that is 4.8 megawatt hours of usable energy storage. After a year it's 57.6 megawatt hours. That's larger than the largest battery array in the world right now. Throw in similar calculations for the Leafs sold in the last year and you more than double that number.

Plug-ins are a niche market right now, barely established, only viable, for the most part, because of government subsidy. But it's not hard to imagine a future, say 10 years from now, where plug-ins are selling in the millions. At one million annually, that is about 60 times current volume of Volts, and would enable multiple gigawatt hours of grid storage from the used batteries down the line.
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A converter that plugs into a screw socket doesn't do me any good when California forbid me to install screw sockets in the first place.


I live in (Northern) CA and my house was buit in 1997.
So I do not know when the law that you talk about was passed.
But I can walk into any HD or Lowes and buy screw socket fixtures so I'm not sure why you have such a problem. Are you sure it isn't some local new construction building code?

Mike
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The way I look at it is this: what is wrong with spending money

That is a basic problem with the country's finances.

peanut change
Yes, but add up your dozen such projects and a few other peoples pet projects and it is real money.

We do agree that tackling energy problems is good for the long term interests of the country. However, you do have to wonder if many of these things are fighting last year's battles. Are we working on something that no one else is working on? Or are we doing it just for the sake of US jobs? I think the answer is US jobs, not that no one else is working on these things. So that is an entirely different discussion.

I will repeat: the US had essentially no advanced battery industry 4 years ago...Then a tsunami of stimulus money poured into clean energy ventures

Seriously? How can you connect these? All the Toyotas, Hondas and the Leaf were essentially done deals and had nothing to do with any US funding, right? The GM Volt was 95% design complete before any money showed up, except for the GM bailout, which was about saving jobs, not creating batteries. And GM is using LG Chem from Korea anyway.

Without doing an analysis I think most of the "clean energy" funding went to solar and ethanol type projects. And a lot of funding came from Silicon Valley venture capitalists as well...for a lot of the same failed type of projects.

I'm not against a US battery industry. I just don't see what extra we are bringing, with government funding at this point. Advanced, save-the-world battery research is going to happen with or with this funding, no question about it. If we want jobs that is very easy. Give rebates to EVs and plugins per battery kw-hr, but double the rebate if the battery is made in the US.

maybe in five years we will actually have a shot at earning significant market share away from the likes of Panasonic.

Seriously? The US government should be in the business of trying to target taking market share away from a foreign company? Why? IMO, in a capitalistic economy, this should be for private companies to do. The government should only worry about this for security/military issues, the government should worry about setting up a level playing field, etc.


The thing is that if we push automotive then we get mass storage down the road, as a second life for used car batteries...that is 4.8 megawatt hours of usable energy storage...After a year it's 57.6 megawatt hours.

Agreed. This is already in motion with the current batteries being sold and needs absolutely no new advanced battery research, right?

------

If we really want to spend $120 over 5 years to further the push towards EVs, how about this plan. Provide $20M in research grants to universities for possible game changer technologies. With the other $100M provide an additional rebate for EVs and plugins. (Maybe $2K to $5K, based on battery size, EV vs gas+EV, income, etc) AND provide for public and company-based charging stations...but only if they provide a certain amount of free charging per car per day for something like 5 years. Note that this really costs very little...my Prius plugin only uses $0.25/day of power to charge at my company. But the "idea" of free fuel really makes people think and consider the switch. What if shopping centers had the 20 best parkings spots just for EVs and you got 1-2 hours of free charging--with a big "FREE" sign. Unaware consumers would see this.

The cars you can buy today, in many respects are good enough for 10%, 20%, maybe 30% of drivers. But sales are something like 0.0001% (a guess). We really don't need better batteries to get to 10%, we just need lower prices, consumer education and infrasrtucture.

Real, serious sales of EVs/plugins will cause more models, styles, trims of cars to get designed and built. Better batteries are coming anyway, but we need more sales, acceptance, infrastructure, experience.

Mike
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"The way I look at it is this: what is wrong with spending money"

That is a basic problem with the country's finances.


No, it is not a problem in the current environment of high unemployment and rock bottom interest rates. Stimulus, that is spending money, is called for here. Spending $120 million over 5 years on accelerating the development of an advanced battery industry in the US is money well spent at this time.

add up your dozen such projects and a few other peoples pet projects and it is real money.


Yes, and we should indeed be spending real money, given the economic conditions of high unemployment and rock bottom interest rates.

Or are we doing it just for the sake of US jobs? I think the answer is US jobs, not that no one else is working on these things. So that is an entirely different discussion.

Yes, US jobs, and a foothold in an industry that is crucial to the future of the clean energy economy.

"I will repeat: the US had essentially no advanced battery industry 4 years ago...Then a tsunami of stimulus money poured into clean energy ventures"

Seriously? How can you connect these?


Look at the advanced battery factories built in the US. There were essentially none in 2008. There are now several and they received massive funding from the stimulus plan, if I'm not mistaken.

The US government should be in the business of trying to target taking market share away from a foreign company? Why?

US jobs in an industry crucial to the growth of a clean energy economy.

IMO, in a capitalistic economy, this should be for private companies to do. The government should only worry about this for security/military issues, the government should worry about setting up a level playing field, etc.

I could buy into a 'clean' approach where the playing field is leveled by removing subsidies from energy related industry and attaching a greenhouse gas tax/tariff to all goods entering the US marketplace, but that is fantasy right now. So, I support leveling the playing field in another way: throwing money at the clean energy industry. Since we need stimulus now I doubly support this approach.

Aren't having national energy independence and clean air and water proper things for the national government to address? I think so. Boosting a US advanced battery industry addresses those goals.

If we really want to spend $120 over 5 years to further the push towards EVs, how about this plan. Provide $20M in research grants to universities for possible game changer technologies. With the other $100M provide an additional rebate for EVs and plugins. (Maybe $2K to $5K, based on battery size, EV vs gas+EV, income, etc) AND provide for public and company-based charging stations...but only if they provide a certain amount of free charging per car per day for something like 5 years.

Sounds good to me. Make it so!
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It's amazing how folks are contemplating what will happen 10 years out.l

You realize all those old LiON batteries are being recycled to get the valuable Li back out of them?

SO you think in 10 years, when their capacity is down, the 'best' use is grid storage? What if the battery makers are willing to give you a $3000 trade in allowance? They do on lead batteries right now. Recycle the lead for the next generation of batteries.

Same for aluminum. It costs 75% less to use recycled metal than mining it the first time.

So, I don't buy your idea of 'old batteries' for grid storage. Mostly likely they'll be recycled for the valuable lithium, and technology and capacity will have passed them by. Like trying to use Windows 3.0 200 KHz clock speed computers for something......

-------

"If we really want to spend $120 over 5 years to further the push towards EVs, how about this plan. Provide $20M in research grants to universities for possible game changer technologies. With the other $100M provide an additional rebate for EVs and plugins. :

More rebates and give aways of money we don't have????

Giving away money does nothing to drive the technology curve. Just prolong the next development and cost reduction.

-------



"AND provide for public and company-based charging stations...but only if they provide a certain amount of free charging per car per day for something like 5 years."


And why should taxpayers subsidize your use of just a little bit of juice? If we are talking 80 mile range EVs, nearly all people won't need to recharge at work.

You're screwing taxpayers ....and of course, business will spend $100,000 to 'go green' for 20 charging spots......that only a few will use......and really don't need to use......

Why should I even give you 25c of juice if you are 'saving so much ' in fuel costs?

----------

"my Prius plugin only uses $0.25/day of power to charge at my company."

But someone had to fork up the $50,000 bucks in probably costs to get power out to those spots.....

and wait until the first customer gets electrocuted.....connecting things in the rain...


--------



" But the "idea" of free fuel really makes people think and consider the switch."

Ha..spend 25 thousand bucks to save 25c a day? ya gotta be kidding.

And a true EV will suck up a couple bucks in juice at a time. You just got a midget EV in that prius.....five or 7 miles? Then back to gas. And if you want your EV to charge up in 4 hours you are talking about heavy duty power to each and every spot.


-------




" What if shopping centers had the 20 best parkings spots just for EVs and you got 1-2 hours of free charging--with a big "FREE" sign. Unaware consumers would see this."

And they might sue for discrimination....they are 'poor' and can't afford an EV...they should be getting free gas coupons....

----------
t
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"Look at the advanced battery factories built in the US. There were essentially none in 2008. There are now several and they received massive funding from the stimulus plan, if I'm not mistaken."

You mean like A123 that has laid off most, gone through half a billion dollars?


And the others using imported technology and likely only assembling completed cells into final batteries?? a couple hundred folks and that too could vanish in a heartbeat.....after the few years is up...

Now Toyota is workingon Manganese batteries.....maybe liON is maxed out....



t.
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So, I don't buy your idea of 'old batteries' for grid storage. Mostly likely they'll be recycled for the valuable lithium, and technology and capacity will have passed them by. Like trying to use Windows 3.0 200 KHz clock speed computers for something......

First, there never were 200 Khz computers running Windows 3.0. Try 200 MHz.

Second, you could use a Lithium-based battery in a car for 10-15 years, then use it on the grid for 5 years, AND THEN still recycle it for a new EV battery.

Giving away money does nothing to drive the technology curve. Just prolong the next development and cost reduction.

Yes it does. By nudging consumers into buying EVs it sends sales to car makers. They respond by building more such cars and allocating research and engineering funds in that direction. Competitors with no EVs get nudged into accelerating their research and engineering money into EVs. This is a fact. It is happening. There are a dozen new EVs and plugins being worked on now. I happened to go to a EV test drive market research project a few months ago (because I was on a list of Prius plugin buyers) where I got to drive cars not yet announced. They wanted to know what specs and features were important, etc.


And why should taxpayers subsidize your use of just a little bit of juice? If we are talking 80 mile range EVs, nearly all people won't need to recharge at work.

Weren't you the one a few days ago saying that everyone couldn't get an EV because they can't charge at home? Charging at work solves this. It doesn't really matter if it is actually free or not. The $0.25 is less of a benefit than free coffee (which I don't drink). The point is the ease and convenience.

Why should I even give you 25c of juice if you are 'saving so much ' in fuel costs. Ha..spend 25 thousand bucks to save 25c a day? ya gotta be kidding.

No, it is to save $1+ in gas everyday and replace it with 25c of elelctricity. Making the 25c free is just the extra incentive to help seed the market with lots of EVs, lots of variations of EVs, lots of charging infrastructure, market awareness. And this was just an idea as an alternative to spending it on battery research. Please consider replying "in context" to comments made. Thanks.

And, no, the idea isn't to spend $25K on a car to save 25c per day. The entire concept of using electricity rather than oil has many benefits, such as:
- lower air pollution, especially in cities like LA
- domestic fuel rather than ~40% imported oil; keeps dollars in US
- fuel can come from many sources (coal, hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, NG, etc); not dependent on a single source, which is now oil (which will get harder and harder to find)
- less money sent to unfriendly countries
- more efficient use of energy: less BTUs per mile on EV driving
- quieter when driving
- lower maintenance costs, when the car is pure EV

There are probably other benefits. To be fair there are disadvantages as well. Nothing in life is perfect.

Mike
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BenSolar,

The way I look at it is this: what is wrong with spending money: stimulus in a depressed economy, peanut change, $120 million over 5 years to improve US competitiveness in a crucial industry?

Nothing's wrong with that, in fact I will applaud you doing it. As long as you're using your money to do it. Not someone else's without their specific consent.

No, it is not a problem in the current environment of high unemployment and rock bottom interest rates. Stimulus, that is spending money, is called for here.

As long as the Money Fairy waves her magic wand and the money spent on wishful-stimulus pops out of nowhere, this is a fine idea. But if you have to take money from one set of people in order to give it to another set, this is a horrible idea. What makes you think the government spending that money will have a more positive effect on the US economy than the people who have that money right now spending it themselves? At least they have some motivation to spend wisely.

Phil
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mschmit,

I live in (Northern) CA and my house was buit in 1997.
So I do not know when the law that you talk about was passed.


I don't know "when it was passed", and it changes frequently. If we'd gotten our building permit in the next calendar year, the rules we had to follow would have been different. Here's a link to one version:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&a...
• Kitchens. At least half the installed wattage of luminaires in kitchens shall be high efficacy and the ones that are not must be switched separately.

• Lighting in Bathrooms, Garages, Laundry Rooms and Utility Rooms. All luminaires shall either be high efficacy or shall be controlled by an occupant sensor.

• Other Rooms. All luminaires shall either be high efficacy or shall be controlled by an occupant sensor or dimmer. Closet that are less than 70 square foot are exempt from this requirements.
...
A high efficacy luminaire is one that contains only high efficacy lamps and must not contain a conventional (medium) screw-based socket. Typically, high efficacy luminaires contain, pin-based sockets, like compact or linear fluorescent lamp sockets, though other types such as screw sockets specifically rated for high intensity discharge lamps (like metal halide lamps) may also be eligible for exterior use. Luminaires with modular components that allow conversion between screw-based and pin-based sockets without changing the luminaire housing or wiring shall not be considered high efficacy luminaires. These requirements prevent low efficacy lamps being retrofitted in high efficacy luminaires.


Note that "These requirements prevent low efficacy lamps being retrofitted in high efficacy luminaires" means that actual high-efficiency lamps, like LEDs, cannot be retrofitted into the required so-called high-efficacy fixtures (which use lower-efficiency bulbs than LEDs).

But I can walk into any HD or Lowes and buy screw socket fixtures so I'm not sure why you have such a problem.

The problem is just that I have to buy a new fixture, remove the old fixture, and install the new fixture... if I want to save energy. All because California required me to use fixtures that met idiotic "eco-friendly" requirements which, even at the time were known in the lighting industry to not be the most efficient choices available.

Are you sure it isn't some local new construction building code?

Yes, Title 24 applies throughout California.

Phil
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These requirements prevent low efficacy lamps being retrofitted in high efficacy luminaires.

There was a rationale for the requirement. Maybe not a GOOD rationale for the long term, but that is the way it goes.

If we'd gotten our building permit in the next calendar year, the rules we had to follow would have been different.

Which indicates it was not the politicians who made the mistake, after all....
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If we'd gotten our building permit in the next calendar year, the rules we had to follow would have been different.

Perhaps I should clarify that the rules would have required the non-efficient fixtures in even more locations. Not that the new rules would have been improved in any way whatsoever.

Phil
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Mike:"Second, you could use a Lithium-based battery in a car for 10-15 years, then use it on the grid for 5 years, AND THEN still recycle it for a new EV battery."


Or not. If the LiON battery folks are willing to buy it for more than the grid storage folks, guess who'll win?

-------



Mike;" By nudging consumers into buying EVs it sends sales to car makers. They respond by building more such cars and allocating research and engineering funds in that direction. Competitors with no EVs get nudged into accelerating their research and engineering money into EVs."

Yes, the big 3, due to CA rules, will come up with econo-box EVs like the Spark for 25K and hope enough suckers will buy them.

SO you'll rob Peter to give money to Paul so he can buy that 32.5K Spark for only 25K?

Typical lib picking others pockets and redistributing it.

-------




Mike:" They wanted to know what specs and features were important, etc."

You mean after 40 years of building cars, they are still clue less? No, they wanted to know what it would take to get YOU to buy one. SInce you already were half way there.

--------




Mike:"Weren't you the one a few days ago saying that everyone couldn't get an EV because they can't charge at home?"

OH..so now consumers get to pay for the weenies getting 'free' electricity at work? Every day? And on weekends they drive and drive, and come back with depleted battery to work and suck up more juice? And the companies customers get to pay for it?

WOw....once again, picking Paul's and Patty's pockets to give to welfare weenie Peter...let him friggin pay for his electricity!...full market price, plus a fee for using the charging bay at work.

And of course, you assume every company is going to fall on its sword and provide charging for 'everyone' who wants to charge a car.

Heck, the last company I was at did away with 'free coffee'. YOu had to go to the cafeteria. Their excuse was 'folks spent too much time at the coffee machine'. So instead, they spent 20 minutes or more walking to the cafeteria, then sitting and yakking there, while they drank their 'hot coffee'.....because you and I know it is also a 'safety hazard' to be carrying 'hot liquids' that can 'burn' through hallways where others are walking (grin)..... and for those who needed coffee 4 or 5 times a day.....they spent half the time going to /from and in the cafeteria..but the bean counters saved 25c a cup for the coffee not provided 'free'.

------








- lower air pollution, especially in cities like LA - ** *just moves the pollution from coal plants to other locations....

- domestic fuel rather than ~40% imported oil; keeps dollars in US *** maybe.....but by then, we might be able to produce all that we use. so that might not be true.





- less money sent to unfriendly countries - for what? Lithium? All the electronics to run the car? The rare earth metals in the motors? Half those cars will be made overseas..... and we hardly send any money to 'unfriendly countries' now, right? Only a teeny portion goes to Saudi Arabia and its not exactly 'unfriendly'.


- lower maintenance costs, when the car is pure EV *** that remains to be seen. Who knows if exploding batteries will be the norm......or EVs dying on the vine? you don't. That's pure speculation. You still have tires, steering, a/c units, lights, radios, transmissions, axles, CV joints, brakes - which are even more complicated......electric windows.....






To be fair there are disadvantages as well. ***** like almost no heat and defrost in MN in the winter...and reduced range due to cold batteries......maybe no ability to tow a boat or travel trailer.....of any kind.....probably always smaller than gas cars.....and of course, you'll run out of range.....can't take it on trips.


t.
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Or not. If the LiON battery folks are willing to buy it for more than the grid storage folks, guess who'll win?

That is amazing. Really? Whoever wants to pay the most will get it. Are you an economist? Have you done the math to show where they would have th emost value. Please show us the equations.


Maybe you confused me with someone else.

I'm the one who began saying, back at the top of this thread, that I did not think this battery initiative was a good idea. I said it was too aggrsive and not likely to come close to the goals. And that private money should be used, not government money. Did you read any of that?

In a recent reply I said that "if" the government was to spend money that I had a more efficient way to spend it. Even though I do not want this money to be spent, I think that it is important that better ideas on how to spend it are openly discussed.

And I'd reread your replies to my view of why plugins and EVs have advantages. Your lame attempts at disputing them make no sense.

Mike
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Actually, I am all for RESEARCH in battery technology. The gov't advanced technology grants should go for that....research.....


I"m not willing to spend a dime helping people BUILD FACTORIES....and or subsidize electric cars.

If folks want to be green, and save money on gas, let them buy the car at regular price. I don't see why my pocket should be picked to let folks ride 'free' in the HOV lanes in CA.

We blew a few billion on greenie car factories..what a disaster....


ANd more billions on greenie solar cell factories...another disaster...



t.
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Actually, I am all for RESEARCH in battery technology. The gov't advanced technology grants should go for that....research.....

Then you are all for this project, because that it just what it's all about. Research. No one is talking about subsidizing cars in this subject.
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Radish,

You either believe that stimulus spending is appropriate in a depressionary environment or you don't. I do. Krugman explains the economic reasoning better than I can. Just read his blog back a few weeks and you'll find plenty of evidence about the effects of austerity vs. stimulus in this kind of economy, which resembles the Great Depression or 1990s Japan http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

OK, so if you think stimulus is appropriate, then you are just looking to assemble a set of projects with a good average expected return to the public. Setting up a research hub in Chicago for advanced batteries, constructed and funded for five years for $120 million? It's a venture capital kind of endeavor. You might not get much out of it. Or, you might crack one out of the park. I think the public will get a very good return on its money for this one, average scenario, because interest rates are so low and because advanced batteries are such a crucial technology to the clean energy economy.
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To be fair there are disadvantages as well. ***** like almost no heat and defrost in MN in the winter...and reduced range due to cold batteries......

Nissan Leaf is sold here. So is the Volt. More to come.

maybe no ability to tow a boat or travel trailer.....of any kind.....

So they buy a gas-powered SUV for that. Kinda like whining about the public being able to see inside a greenhouse from the outside.

probably always smaller than gas cars.....

Of course. Internal combustion engines require a bigger space due to the size of the engine, carried fuel (and related safety eqpt), and so on.

and of course, you'll run out of range.....can't take it on trips.

Next you will be whining about the lack of gas stations on Mount Everest.
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"Next you will be whining about the lack of gas stations on Mount Everest. "

So you're planning a EV charging station there too?


heh heh



t
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You either believe that stimulus spending is appropriate in a depressionary environment or you don't. I do. Krugman explains the economic reasoning better than I can

But you can't claim, every year, year after year that the economy needs stimulus. Some years need to be average years...and some better than average years. After 4 years of supposed stimulus you have to accept the fact that this is normal. Or you are doing something wrong.

Economic theory is just that...a theory. In practice it doesn't always work. You have to look at more than one parameter.

If you have one foot on the gas (stimulus, low interest rates) and one foot on the brake (class warfare, higher taxes, more regulations, claiming that entrepreneurs didn't build that, penalizing success, low interest rates causing poor return for savers--usually elderly, big long term debt and future liabilities)...you can't expect to be accelerating very much, if at all.

Sure, with all other conditions being in balance, and an econmic downturn, injecting some stimulus can be the right solution. But you can't claim that every program you "want" that can't be justified any other way is OK because it is a stimulus, year after year after year.

IMO, the time for a stimulus from the 2008 financial mess is over. Stimulus projects take years to bear fruit.

I am in favor of the government seeding things like the decades long transition from oil to EV. But lets not kid ourselves and hide behind the word stimulus because we have high unemployment this year.

Maybe switching to EVs will be a big net loss of jobs in the long run. Fewer gas stations attendants, fewer mechanics (for sure fewer oil changes, most probably batteries & motors have less issues than gas engines, fewer brake pads to replace, no mufflers to repair, all else about the same), fewer tanker truck drivers, fewer refinery operators, fewer oil drillers--mostly overseas?, fewer oil tanker offloading, fewer pipeline operators, etc, etc. I assume that car sales, car assemblers and car designers all stay about the same...but there is a big net loss of local jobs everywhere.

So, I am only mildly in favor of "stimulus" ever and only in a small percentage of years (maybe 2-3 per decade) and only to help do needed things that can put people to work right away. Providing jobs for chemists and engineers to work on future batteries is not a real stimulus...it doesn't provide any real jobs for the typical person out of work now. Maybe a few jobs in 5 or more years for assemblers. And the long term it helps job losses as I've proven above as well as Krugman can prove anything.

Mike
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So you're planning a EV charging station there too?

Solar power works just fine.
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If you have one foot on the gas (stimulus, low interest rates)

A significant portion of the so-called "ongoing stimulus" for several years went to the financial institutions (TBTF)--and they did NOT do as the economy required to help it grow more quickly. Instead, they kept the money and did very little to promote economic growth.

The need is to remove the TBTF banks (etc) from the stimulus funding stream and require it be loaned out appropriately. No responsible loans by banks = no stimulus funding for them.
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"A significant portion of the so-called "ongoing stimulus" for several years went to the financial institutions (TBTF)--and they did NOT do as the economy required to help it grow more quickly. Instead, they kept the money and did very little to promote economic growth."


A good chunk of the porkulus (err,..stimulus)...went to state governments to keep them from going bust....and for the silly reason of 'retaining teachers'...when many school systems didn't need as many due to lower enrollment, or for all the diversity councilors and other crap now imposed upon school districts just to comply with all the federal mandates on PC crap.

It went to bail out NY and CA and IL and other states by the tens of billions of dollars.


Total waste. Just made those states waste even more knowing there was federal porkulus money to bail them out.


Face it...the first and second 'stimulus' was 99% pork...and accomplished little.


Unemployment is back above 8%....likely it was only manipulating the stats that dropped in 'just in time' for the election......

YOu can't afford to 'charge your way' on credit cards to prosperity.

NOr can you QE (print money) your way their either.


t.
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After 4 years of supposed stimulus you have to accept the fact that this is normal. Or you are doing something wrong.


No, I do not accept that 8% unemployment is normal for the US. Absolutely not. We did something wrong alright, in 2008 we underestimated how bad the crash was going to be and we under-sized the stimulus package. That mistake was called in real time by Krugman.

Economic theory is just that...a theory. In practice it doesn't always work. You have to look at more than one parameter.

Absolutely. You look at all the parameters you can. You look at what has worked and not worked during this global crash. You look at who has been right and who has been wrong. Austerity has created outright depressions in parts of Europe. Stimulus in the US stopped the crash averting a depression, but was undersized so we still have excessive unemployment.

It's easy to tell when the time for stimulus is over: when unemployment comes down to normal levels and when interest rates start to rise.

Now, is investing in the advanced battery hub effective stimulus? Well, it's true that it's no road project, but that money is going to be injected into the economy, which is short term stimulus, in the furtherance of a number of goals such as US energy independence, US industry competitiveness, and clean energy, so I think it is well spent.
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BenSolar,

You either believe that stimulus spending is appropriate in a depressionary environment or you don't.

I believe the evidence is overwhelming that it is better to leave the money in the hands of those who earned it than to take that money and have government bureaucrats spend it arbitrarily. It's even worse for the government to borrow money for a so-called stimulus, and later have to not only take the money away from those who earned it, but the interest on the money as well.

It's a venture capital kind of endeavor.

No, it's not. Venture capitalists put their own money, and the money of willing investors they represent, into the project. Not someone else's money. If it works, they reap the benefits (and so does society, to some extent). If it fails, they pony up the loss. No one else is hurt.

I think the public will get a very good return on its money for this one, average scenario, because interest rates are so low and because advanced batteries are such a crucial technology to the clean energy economy.

Fine, then. How sure are you there'll be a good return? Will you guarantee the results? How much of your own money are you willing to put on the line? Will you pay me back my tax money if it fails? If you want to group several of these government projects together, because some will fail and some (might) succeed, that's fine. As long as you, personally, are willing to put some significant skin in the game.

Phil
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Will you pay me back my tax money if it fails?

The GWB tax cuts failed. Time for you to start collecting that money from those who got it....
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"It's easy to tell when the time for stimulus is over: when unemployment comes down to normal levels and when interest rates start to rise."


The time for stimulus is over.

Face it...it's been a disaster and just allowed governments to prop up their insane spending levels..... and for unions and union leaders to rip off taxpayers with Davis Bacon wage scales and work rules that get less done for each buck than right to work contractors.

It's a giant slush fund to reward those who have donated to Obama's campaign. That was proven in the greenie energy field.

Now, I'd bet most of the money is going to groups very very very cozy with the lib dems....and not necessarily the best places, but the 'best connected' places.....

Sorry....the Krugman porkulus has done more to destroy American values and create ever more welfare weenies and queenies. YOu can't give jobs to half of them since they make effectively more sitting on their butts and collecting benefits.

40 years of 'the war on poverty' and we have more poverty than at any time in history despite a trillion dollars spent on it.


t.
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A significant portion of the so-called "ongoing stimulus" for several years went to the financial institutions (TBTF)

We are drifting way OT...but as I recall:

The TARP money was loan guarantees that went to the TBTF banks that they had to pay back. This is different than stimulus money. Yes, it is fair to say that the banks didn't "do what they were supposed to" with it. But the TARP money was so they had sufficient assets to back the loans they made, not money to be loaned. We probably should have let some of them fail. Some banks were forced to take TARP money even if they didn't want it so that the troubled banks couldn't be identified based on taking TARP funds, IIRC. But in the end the TARP funds were (or were supposed to be) returned to the US treasury AFAIK.

Stimulus money was handed out with a hope of a return somehow...or not.

Mike
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No, I do not accept that 8% unemployment is normal for the US. Absolutely not. We did something wrong alright, in 2008 we underestimated how bad the crash was going to be and we under-sized the stimulus package.

Yes, everytime you pull on the Chinese finger trap, when your fingers don't come out you just are pulling hard enough...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_finger_trap

Mike
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The GWB tax cuts failed

How do we know that maybe they just weren't big enough?
It is the same argument Ben put forth as to why the stimulus didn't work...it wasn't big enough.

Note, I am not siding with either position. But how can you prove that one wasn't big enough and the other wasn't?

I think it really comes down to who you think should be sending money to who.

Which brings us back around to this thread. Is there any reason to think that Steven Chu can just wave his hand and decide 5x5x5? Seriously, let's discuss this. The Manhattan project was all about taking a known, but unproven, physics theory and building it. How does this apply today? What chemistry or physics theory are we trying to implement in 5 years? IMO, there is none...we are shooting in the dark. Which is perfectly fine for a grad student project.

But when tax funds are used it is a valid argument to say is their better use for the funds...or just to not (borrow it and) spend it at all.

Mike
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Is there any reason to think that Steven Chu can just wave his hand and decide 5x5x5? ... But when tax funds are used it is a valid argument to say is there better use for the funds...or just to not (borrow it and) spend it at all.

Or, if it's such a great idea, why doesn't Steven Chu just put the 5x5x5 project on Kickstarter and let people jump in? That is, why doesn't he put the project up for private investors to fund, and then cut them in for a share of any profits? Once the private investors have come up with $120 million, then start the 5-year project at those six labs and five universities and four private firms. Surely there'd be huge profit potential back to those investors from, say, patents on a new battery technology.

If there's a lot of people like BenSolar who think it's a great idea, it should be no problem coming up with the amount of funding that BenSolar describes as "peanut change". If there's not a lot of people who'd be willing to put their own money on the line, then it's obviously not an idea that's good enough to force taxpayers to fund either.

Phil
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I believe the evidence is overwhelming that it is better to leave the money in the hands of those who earned it...

What a phrase! First, the evidence for what you're describing is not overwhelming at all. At best (for you) the evidence is a mixed bag leaning towards limiting overall wealth discrepancy to a factor of 10 or less...

Because, second, the phrase "those who earned it" is loaded with preconceptions. The main and worst preconception is that the market rewards the earners in a way that is just, fair, and promotes the human condition.

All it should take to destroy this meme is one look at our corporate rewards differential between a failed CEO, and the engineer who makes the product. This is the market at work. It does not work for us, it only works for those who can twist it. I'll gladly grant that a market system is the only one that really works for the long-term, but only when it has strict human guidance.

Will you pay me back my tax money if it fails?

First, please pay me for all the things I didn't want our government to do: oil company subsidies, farm subsidies, the war in Iraq...and I'll happily contribute *all* of it to R&D and stimulus. You'll be so awash in economic growth your head will spin.
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The GWB tax cuts failed

How do we know that maybe they just weren't big enough?


Because tax cuts were tried three times under GWB--and increased each time. And they still failed.

Tax cuts were tried by conservatives since the 1890s--and never worked. IMO, trying the same thing over and over again for more than 100 years and always failing is proof the concept does not work.

But how can you prove that one wasn't big enough and the other wasn't?

Because we have proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a large enough stimulus *does* work. That proof is the end of the Great Depression--which was ended by the stimulus production needed in WWII. There were jobs for everyone.
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Radish,

We pay taxes as members of our society. I pay taxes voluntarily, maybe you do too, maybe you don't. We have a representative government in which decisions on how to spend those taxes is relegated to elected officials and those they appoint to various agencies.

Got a problem with that, then feel free to leave.

If we get to start asking for direct control of government spending, I'd like to ask for my share of the Iraq wars to be refunded, please. Talk about a destructive waste of money.

The advanced battery hub in Chicago will at least be spending that $120 million over 5 years in this country. That will generate sustained tax revenue for years to come.
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How do we know that maybe they just weren't big enough?
It is the same argument Ben put forth as to why the stimulus didn't work...it wasn't big enough.


Hold on, Mike. The stimulus did work: we averted a full-blown depression. We have 7.9% unemployment. Compare that to the Euro zone 17, which used austerity in response to the crash. They have 11.7% unemployment and are falling back into a double dip severe recession.

The stimulus worked, it was just too small to restore full employment. So long as the feds can borrow money for free and unemployment remains high, we should be applying stimulus. When employment becomes close to full, normal levels of unemployment, say less than 6%, that's when you stop stimulus and you return to a neutral fiscal and monetary policy. When the economy is humming along, employment gets tight, and inflation rises, then you apply fiscal and monetary restraint. That's when you pay down your debt.

We had the chance to do that in 2000, but Bush blew it. Maybe Hilary or Christie will have the chance to do that in 2017 if Obama can get the economy rolling again. I just thank goodness that he won and we won't see a disastrous turn to austerity when we are so vulnerable. Europe is headed into recession thanks to their austerity. That will drag us down too if we don't proactively boost employment.
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"The advanced battery hub in Chicago will at least be spending that $120 million over 5 years in this country. That will generate sustained tax revenue for years to come. "

Isn't it a bit funny that this 'hub' winds up in Obama's home turf?

Chicago....the center of no manufacturing, no battery expertise, ....not anything..

More political porkulus, inefficiently spent.

Why not the hub, saying in Research Triangle, NC? Or in Austin TX? or in the technology hub surrounding Boston/MIT?

oh, right...political connections and shoveling money out to favored states....trying to bail them out of their financial irresponsible mess!


It's really a joke. Chicago as the 'hub' of 'advanced batteries'? Gimme a break.


t,.
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"The stimulus worked, it was just too small to restore full employment. So long as the feds can borrow money for free and unemployment remains high, we should be applying stimulus. When employment becomes close to full, normal levels of unemployment, say less than 6%, that's when you stop stimulus and you return to a neutral fiscal and monetary policy. When the economy is humming along, employment gets tight, and inflation rises, then you apply fiscal and monetary restraint. That's when you pay down your debt."

Heck, Obama and the drones have ZERO intention of ever paying down the debt. The only thing they talk about is 'reducing the rate of growth' of the debt....and they can't even manage to laughingly get to to zero even in 20 years.......

Ya gotta be kidding! Borrow yet another five trillion for 'porkulus' and taking more and more of the investment from the private sector and giving it to the government to redistribute to favored political groups?

The last stimulus brought us 35 failed greenie companies.....billions down the greenie rat holes, no new jobs, ...and more trillions of debt.

Yeah...when your 'economy' if ever recovers and interest rates climb, just the interest on 20 trillion at 4% is going to wind up eating 800 billion in interest a year....or 1/3rd of the total existing tax take.

Did you ever do the math?

4% interest is near the 'norm'

Now, can you imagine a government having 50% less than it has today (we have 4 trillion in spending....).....where it could not even spend 2 trillion a year for all the 'essentials'?


Get back to me.

You really want to see hyper inflation, which is the only way out of that.

I remember the 15% treasury note rates in the 1983 time frame. A disaster!.......

Now imagine your money is evaporating at 15% a year. IN 5 years, your saved 'money' can buy half as much. The price of everything doubles. The standard of living for 25% of the population living on fixed income goes down by half.

That's what you seem to want!...Unlimited spending. More borrowing and more borrowing!.......

No amount of stimulus is going to save this economy if you keep sucking private money and investment out of the economy and just bloat the government even more. no amount of stimulus is going to save this economy if you raise taxes.

You'll note that Obama is calling for 30 billion in new stimulus to 'offset' the effect of just raining taxes 'on the rich'...ha ha..... a temporary 1 year porkulus to offset a permanent alleged 90 billion in new taxes that likely won't get even half that amount in new taxes......

It's all a joke and redistribution of wealth. Steal from the rich and give to the politically connected and welfare weenies/queenies.


t.
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Hold on, Mike. The stimulus did work: we averted a full-blown depression.

How do you know this wasn't due to TARP money (that was paid back)? The "promise" of the stimulus was that unemployment wouldn't hit 8% (look it up, Obama specifically said this). It went way beyond that. You say because the stimulus wasn't big enough. What if most the stimulus was just political paybacks and was ineffective*? Ben Stein (IIRC) even said it was not better than dropping cash out of helicopters...this is no different than lowering taxes, right? Re: the chinese finger trap...you think you are doing the right thing, but the opposite is the solution. The budget deficit over the last 4 years is more than the prior 200+ years combined. Neither political party has ever paid back the debt in good times. The national debt is negative feedback into every attempt to improve the economy and amplifies every downturn.

* When you use a stimulus to, for example, build a bridge or road, you get jobs. For years after that you get the economic advantage/improvement of the shorter/better trip across the bridge or Interstate. But what if this is 1960 thinking? All such transportation optimizations are all built in to the economy. Filling potholes is fine, but there is no net new advantage...it is just maintenance that gets us back to where we were to start with.

What if labor intensive stimulus projects don't work anymore? (An interesting discussion by itself). This brings us to the battery type programs. Great we need the advantage of better batteries. But there is no traditional stimulus effect. It adds very few jobs...it adds ~zero low skill jobs. And in the long run, specifically batteries, as I've detailed before, will allow EVs to reduce jobs.

The small focused goal of better batteries is really more suited for private companies and venture capitalists to pursue, unlike things like roads and bridges which are more suited for government.

Mike
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jwiest,

All it should take to destroy this meme is one look at our corporate rewards differential between a failed CEO, and the engineer who makes the product.

It seems to me that the "rewards", by which I assume you mean compensation, earned by all those you list were from contracts voluntarily entered into by all involved parties. If you think the amounts earned are inappropriate, you're certainly free to start your own corporation and negotiate whatever compensation you think is fair. No one is stopping you.

First, please pay me for all the things I didn't want our government to do: oil company subsidies, farm subsidies, the war in Iraq...and I'll happily contribute *all* of it to R&D and stimulus.

I opposed all subsidies, and continue to do so. I have supported the Iraq war only to the extent that it involved honoring established commitments to our allies, but I've opposed those commitments in the first place.

Come up with something I support the government doing, and you oppose, and then we can talk about you being paid back.

Phil
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How do you know this wasn't due to TARP money (that was paid back)? The "promise" of the stimulus was that unemployment wouldn't hit 8% (look it up, Obama specifically said this). It went way beyond that.

In 2008 everyone underestimated how bad the economy was crashing, Obama and pretty much everyone else, thus the comments and thus they undersized the stimulus.

Europe took similar measures to stabilize their banking industry as we did with TARP, if I'm not mistaken, but they did not engage in the stimulus we did. They now have 11.7% unemployment in the Euro-17 and are falling back into recession while we are slowly growing with 7.7% unemployment.

At any rate, I suppose this is not the board for an extended discussion of neo-Keynsian economic theory vs. Austrian. To me the neo-Keynsians have done a vastly superior job of predicting the outcomes of the various regions according to their response to the crash than anyone else. I'm happy to leave it at that and realize that many people disagree.

Returning to the subject of battery technology: is the stated goal of this initiative feasible? I agree it is massive stretch, but I don't think it is entirely outlandish. For instance, compare current technology that has been going into EVs with what the leader is talking about for cutting edge near-future technology. Toyota announced last year that they are working on a solid-state lithium ion battery that could enable such a leap forward as described by Chu.

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/10/toyota-20111019.html...
"
The Nikkei reports that Toyota Motor Corp. and its partners the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization have devised a prototype solid-state Li-ion storage battery and aim to improve and then commercialize it in the 2015-2020 timeframe.

Since the battery can easily be processed into sheet form, it can store several times the amount of electricity, volume for volume, than the current generation of electric vehicle batteries, according to the developers. This added capacity may extend the maximum driving distance per charge for compact EVs to around 1,000 km [621 miles] from the 200km or so for existing vehicles.
"

Now maybe that pans out, maybe it doesn't, but the more intense research and development we (and Japan, Korea, Europe, etc ...) pour into the issue the more likely that someone produces a big leap forward.

Notice the partnership that produced this solid-state battery research: a business, a university, and a government lab. Looks like we are just copying and expanding on what the Japanese are successfully doing already.
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BenSolar,

I pay taxes voluntarily, maybe you do too, maybe you don't.

I pay taxes because the government requires me to do so, and they have far more power than I do. It's not voluntary.

We have a representative government in which decisions on how to spend those taxes is relegated to elected officials and those they appoint to various agencies.

I am not represented, since the people I've voted for did not win. The government represents some Americans, but not me and not many others. Surely you can't seriously propose that people I voted against represent my interests in government?

Got a problem with that, then feel free to leave.

I never chose to be here. It's not my responsibility to leave.

If we get to start asking for direct control of government spending, I'd like to ask for my share of the Iraq wars to be refunded, please.

I would love to have my share of the cost of the Iraq war refunded as well. Indeed, as I've posted for the "5x5x5", I see no reason why the government couldn't have put the Iraq war project on Kickstarter and let it be privately funded (provided the government hadn't made, against my position, various agreements to various allies... having done that, the government has an obligation to meet those agreements).

The advanced battery hub in Chicago will at least be spending that $120 million over 5 years in this country. That will generate sustained tax revenue for years to come.

Tell you what... you send me a bunch of money over the next 5 years, and I'll pay you any tax on it (less than 100%) you want back. Should be a great deal for you, right?

How about we take $60 million and pay people to dig holes. Then we can take another $60 million and pay another set of people to fill them in. That will generate employment, and when those people spend their paychecks it will generate tax revenue for years to come. Plus, the outcome is far more certain than this 5x5x5 project. Very low risk.

Phil
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"* When you use a stimulus to, for example, build a bridge or road, you get jobs. For years after that you get the economic advantage/improvement of the shorter/better trip across the bridge or Interstate. But what if this is 1960 thinking? All such transportation optimizations are all built in to the economy. Filling potholes is fine, but there is no net new advantage...it is just maintenance that gets us back to where we were to start with."

Half the porkulus money went for turtle tunnels, building or refurging butterfly museums, and fixing bridges and roads.....and at highest prevailing union wages - the least amount of jobs for the dollar spent.....

Did it improve the economy over the time those workers were employed?

No, not one bit.

Building turtle tunnels? total waste, but they did.

Building bike paths that 10 people a month use? Total waste......


But those were the 'shovel ready' projects. The real bridge building takes five years to plan and execute and there were none of those.

It was all 'make work' projects..there's a youtube video of union bosses trying to figure out how to waste the 'stimulus' money they got. Basically digging holes one day and filling them in the next day.

Ya gotta be kidding. More waste with more 'porkulus' ..

or more QE making your dollars worth less year after year after year....hidden inflation and loss of purchasing power.

In 1998, oil was 12 bucks a barrel. Now it is 90 bucks a barrel. more than half of that is due to the fact the dollar has lost 30% of its purchasing power in just 14 years.

You ain't seen nothing yet as Obama commands QE forever.....dropping your purchasing power year after year to prop up his failed economic policies and spend spend spend mentality.



t.
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It seems to me that the "rewards", by which I assume you mean compensation, earned by all those you list were from contracts voluntarily entered into by all involved parties. If you think the amounts earned are inappropriate, you're certainly free to start your own corporation and negotiate whatever compensation you think is fair. No one is stopping you.

No, the problem is our entire society is structure to perpetuate this discrepancy, yet market "purists" insist this is right, just because that's the (convenient for them) outcome. This is the same kind of argument as "if you think taxes should be higher, send a check to the government"...it misses the point that the problem is systemic and it requires a systemic solution, or we end up with an ever more corrupt plutocracy...because that's exactly what the market does, it makes plutocrats.

Whether I enter into a different contractual agreement, or send a check to the government, is irrelevant to improving the human condition, broadening prosperity, and increasing access to opportunity.
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jwiest,

No, the problem is our entire society is structure to perpetuate this discrepancy

No you can't start your own company? Why not? And what "discrepancy"? I don't see any discrepancy.

Whether I enter into a different contractual agreement, or send a check to the government, is irrelevant to improving the human condition, broadening prosperity, and increasing access to opportunity.

The free enterprise system, with the rule of law enforcing voluntarily-entered contracts, and with free competition has improved the human condition, broadened prosperity, and increased access to opportunity more than any other factor in human history. Far more. Several orders of magnitude more.

Some vague claim that one person is paid "too little" and another person is paid "too much", when both those people accepted the job and pay entirely voluntarily, is not a sound basis for disrupting the most beneficial system ever devised by Man. I doubt some system where jwiest, or some other Lord High Master, decides what wages are "right" for each person is going to be an improvement.

Phil
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The small focused goal of better batteries is really more suited for private companies and venture capitalists to pursue, unlike things like roads and bridges which are more suited for government.


I think blue-sky R&D is very well suited for a government funded coalition of industry, universities and national labs. Private companies are pinned down by quarter to quarter and year to year concerns, so it's good for the government to fund more speculative R&D. The advanced battery hub fits that bill, IMO. The national labs have expertise that will translate directly into the effort, universities obviously are also a wellspring of scientific and technical advances, the center is in the midwest where the auto industry is. It all fits together pretty well.

there is no traditional stimulus effect. It adds very few jobs...it adds ~zero low skill jobs.

Any time you dump a bunch of money into the economy there is traditional stimulus effect. $24,000,000 a year buys something. Now I'm not saying this project is best short-term stimulus I can imagine, it's not. Rather it will have some short term stimulus effect and it will have a good return on investment to the US public when viewed on a long term basis, average outcome, due to the venture capital aspect of the payback in taxes when significant gains for the US battery industry are realized, and due to the public health and quality of life benefits that will accrue in the event of significant advances.
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BenSolar,

Private companies are pinned down by quarter to quarter and year to year concerns

This is simply not true at all. Sure, there are some companies that only focus short term. And those probably wouldn't do a project like this. But there are plenty of companies with very long range plans, and they could easily handle a "5-year" project like this one.

Heck, even the already-maligned (in this thread) Iridium project (which is operating at a nice profit today, by the way) was a ten-year $5-billion project. And that's only the development time. There was also planning for the next decade of operation.

Phil
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Some vague claim that one person is paid "too little" and another person is paid "too much", when both those people accepted the job and pay entirely voluntarily,

It's not "entirely voluntary", it's most often what's available.

... is not a sound basis for disrupting the most beneficial system ever devised by Man. I doubt some system where jwiest, or some other Lord High Master, decides what wages are "right" for each person is going to be an improvement.

I have no intention of deciding that. However, a highly progressively taxed, stimulative, infrastructure-building society will become more equal and broadly prosperous because money is channelled into opportunity. We already have the data and experience on this, it worked for 40 years. Then we went all laissez-faire and have had a 30 year decline.
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jwiest,

It's not "entirely voluntary", it's most often what's available.

Yes, it's entirely voluntary. If you don't like a job offer, you can turn it down, and if no job offer is available that you find acceptable, you can start your own company and create that job. If an employee demands more money than you want to pay, then don't hire him. The only real exception to all this being entirely voluntary is when the government interferes with free enterprise (like the Federal laws allowing unions to prohibit freely-negotiated contracts between employers and non-union employees).

However, a highly progressively taxed, stimulative, infrastructure-building society will become more equal and broadly prosperous because money is channelled into opportunity. We already have the data and experience on this, it worked for 40 years. Then we went all laissez-faire and have had a 30 year decline.

That's not how I read the history. I stand by my position that no one has conceived any system that better improves the human condition and prosperity than free enterprise with competition, based solely on voluntary transactions and the rule of (contract) law. I doubt either of us can convince the other to read history differently.

Phil
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"Any time you dump a bunch of money into the economy there is traditional stimulus effect. $24,000,000 a year buys something. Now I'm not saying this project is best short-term stimulus I can imagine, it's not. Rather it will have some short term stimulus effect and it will have a good return on investment to the US public when viewed on a long term basis, average outcome, due to the venture capital aspect of the payback in taxes when significant gains for the US battery industry are realized, and due to the public health and quality of life benefits that will accrue in the event of significant advances. "


There isn't likely to be much of a US battery industry.

face it....the labor costs are high here, and most batteries will be made overseas, using material mined overseas and refined overseas. Can't do that here any more - the EPA has shut down mine after mine, and don't think about a new 'chemical plant'....you have 2 million pages of rules that change by the day.

That venture capital is being spent in China now. i got a friend working on state of the art LED bulbs...designed and built in China.....

oh, but to get some 'government brownie points', they'll be assembled (heh heh - assembled - two pieces screwed together and then 'individually boxed' by prison labor. Two sets of brownie points - US 'labor' and 'prison labor' - which means the government has to buy them. no one else has 'such a deal'. heh heh.....but all the money flows to China, and the venture capitalist firm......who'll distribute things in 'shares'.....at ridiculously low prices before the public offering..... and the venture caps will stick them in trusts never to be seen again by the tax man......

No...your research might fund a few US battery companies that will go bust, be bought out for pennies on the dollar by the Chinese who will use them as 'fronts' for their home production and still collect greenie subsidies for each one made. Negative tax implications and gigantic tax payer losses, of course.

That's Obama's record so far on greenie energy and greenie batteries.


t.
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PHil""
Heck, even the already-maligned (in this thread) Iridium project (which is operating at a nice profit today, by the way) was a ten-year $5-billion project. And that's only the development time. There was also planning for the next decade of operation."

Iridium is operating 'at a profit' because it went bankrupt and the assets were bought for 5c on the dollar!....

the original investors lost everything.

It's like the ethanol companies. THey all went bust, were sold for pennies on the dollar, and of course, with all the capital construction costs written off (tax payer got screwed)..... you can make a profit when your whole operation only costs you 5 million to own.

But you knew that Iridium went bust?

ANd most of its customers are 'the US government'? with very few private ones? so tax payers are paying the freight on it?


BUt you knew that, right?

t
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All it should take to destroy this meme is one look at our corporate rewards differential between a failed CEO, and the engineer who makes the product.

The problem (in this type of discussion) for me is that it is almost always a CEO-type discussion on wh ogets paid too much. And maybe they do. But professional athletes (just as an example) also get paid a lot. And most of them lose too. And many of them outright cheat as well (i.e. steroids). Yet most people continue to idolize them. And should we discuss the actors and musicians that are poor examples for kids, too?

Mike
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telegraph,

Iridium is operating 'at a profit' because it went bankrupt and the assets were bought for 5c on the dollar!....

Yes. As it turned out, the new owners are doing well on their investment.

the original investors lost everything.

Well, not everything, but almost. Of course they put their money in voluntarily and knew there were risks. They took a chance and they lost. Anyone who said "I don't want to have anything to do with Iridium" lost nothing. In contrast to this 5x5x5 project, where even if you want nothing to do with it, you're probably still going to lose money on it.

But you knew that Iridium went bust?

Yes, of course. It's still a great example of private industry willing to do large projects. Large in dollar amount and in time duration. Did they succeed? Not like they wanted. But were they willing and able to put a global satellite system in operation? Yes, they were. It's still in operation today. It's also a great example of how when things go bad (in this case, it was a much faster adoption of cell phone networks in even the least populated areas of the planet that Motorola failed, along with pretty much everyone, to anticipate) in private projects, generally only the people who willingly put their money up lose any. Whereas in government projects, even the people who opposed the projects lose.

ANd most of its customers are 'the US government'? with very few private ones? so tax payers are paying the freight on it?

Iridium estimates that its defense contract covers 40% of its expenses, so that would indicate the majority of its customers are non-US-government. And the defense department got a great price on the service it agreed to purchase. It certainly would never have gotten that low a price from the original Iridium, and no other competitor came in with a lower offer. It's probably much cheaper for the tax payers than if the DOD had to design, build, and launch its own satellite network (which it probably would have had to do).

BUt you knew that, right?

I am fairly familiar with Iridium's history, yes.

Phil
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jwiest,

It's [a salary contract] not "entirely voluntary", it's most often what's available.

I am curious, though. If a non-union company making an offer to an employee, where the employee can choose to accept it or not — or counter with another offer, which the company can accept or not — isn't "entirely voluntary", then what would make it be so? That is, describe the changes that would make a salary contract more voluntary, to both parties, than what's in use today.

Phil
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PHil:"Yes, of course. It's still a great example of private industry willing to do large projects. Large in dollar amount and in time duration. Did they succeed? Not like they wanted. But were they willing and able to put a global satellite system in operation? Yes, they were. It's still in operation today. It's also a great example of how when things go bad (in this case, it was a much faster adoption of cell phone networks in even the least populated areas of the planet that Motorola failed, along with pretty much everyone, to anticipate) in private projects, generally only the people who willingly put their money up lose any. Whereas in government projects, even the people who opposed the projects lose."

My company looked seriously at Iridium. We knew from day one it had no possibility of ever making a profit. Probably 500 hours or more was spent on the business case study and engineering analysis. we knew from day 1 there was no market to sustain it.

None the less, Motorola forged ahead and took hundreds of millions of bucks of money down the drain. their money and investor money.

GlobalStar was another failed venture. Had a better chance but still was never going to make a profit. And there were two or three others that had great notions of doing it.

THe defense contract pays 40%, but there are dozens (hundreds) of other fed and state agencies that take up much of the remaining 60%.....

There are a lot of folks with 'emergency units' that never consume minutes of air time..... and that doesn't hack it...

and of course, the news agencies of the world , where they are allowed, have it. Of course, Iridium has to share revenue in dozens of countries that they are 'allowed' to provide service..and many they can't.....


t.




t.
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telegraph,

My company looked seriously at Iridium. We knew from day one it had no possibility of ever making a profit. ... None the less, Motorola forged ahead and took hundreds of millions of bucks of money down the drain. their money and investor money.

I take it your company didn't invest, right? Motorola, and the others who invested, had the same opportunity to "look seriously" at the Iridium project and decide to take the chance or not. If they wanted to risk pouring their money down the drain, I am fine with that. On the other hand, when the government wants to take money from me and risk pouring it down the drain, I am not fine with that.

The defense contract pays 40%, but there are dozens (hundreds) of other fed and state agencies that take up much of the remaining 60%..

I concede that may well be so. I don't have details on the non-defense customers. As long as the various governments receive good value for the services they buy from Iridium, that's fine with me. The government has to get the products and services it needs from somewhere. Just because a company sells to the government doesn't (necessarily) mean it's "propped up" by the taxpayers.

Phil
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So, Radish, do tell us how you address pollution? Are regulations and enforcement of them to protect the commons OK? If not, how do you prevent the industrialists from smothering various populations in smog?
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Sure, there are some companies that only focus short term. And those probably wouldn't do a project like this. But there are plenty of companies with very long range plans, and they could easily handle a "5-year" project like this one.

Heck, even the already-maligned (in this thread) Iridium project (which is operating at a nice profit today, by the way) was a ten-year $5-billion project. And that's only the development time. There was also planning for the next decade of operation.


Iridium was more a deployment of existing technology than R&D like the advanced battery hub, if I'm not mistaken.

I agree, by the way, that there are companies that have both the money and inclination to take on an R&D project of this scale and timeline. I hope that some do. I'm pretty sure other entities around the world are working on it, for example the Japanese private-public partnership that produced the solid state Li-ion battery research I linked to before. The more the merrier!
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I stand by my position that no one has conceived any system that better improves the human condition and prosperity than free enterprise with competition, based solely on voluntary transactions and the rule of (contract) law.

That's not the point of disagreement, I agree with the above. But you expand that to imply that "unfettered" is better, and I say "that's conditional". I stand by my position that it's conditional because it's been proven through modern history, and we are living through a history that proves your "unfettered" doesn't work in the long term.
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The problem (in this type of discussion) for me is that it is almost always a CEO-type discussion on wh ogets paid too much. And maybe they do. But professional athletes (just as an example) also get paid a lot. And most of them lose too. And many of them outright cheat as well (i.e. steroids). Yet most people continue to idolize them. And should we discuss the actors and musicians that are poor examples for kids, too?

Sure, why not? If we had our older tax rates, it wouldn't matter because we could fund our education and infrastructure and ensure a better equality of opportunity.
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"Sure, why not? If we had our older tax rates, it wouldn't matter because we could fund our education and infrastructure and ensure a better equality of opportunity. "

If we had the old tax rates, you'd realize that lower and middle income folks actually PAID MORE of the tax burden than they do now.

You'd realize the 'rich' paid less percentage wise of the total tax take.

And no, most of our education is funded locally, not by the NANNY state......and infrastructure at the fed level is a gross case of porkuls mismanagement, work done at the highest possible wages, and money going, via a corrupted system, to campaign bundlers and contributors to the party in power....usually dimmocrats....

We've been 'borrowing our way' to a barely functioning economy for the past 40 years.

Most of our GDP is an illusion and exists only because of statistical manipulation as the welfare state grows and grows and grows.

YOu don't spend your way to prosperity.



t.
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If we had the old tax rates, you'd realize that lower and middle income folks actually PAID MORE of the tax burden than they do now.

Not total taxes, not by a long shot. And corporate taxes (total intake, not necessarily reflected in the rates) as a percent of GDP were much higher.

But I know your penchant for playing fast and loose with the facts, you get called on it nearly every day.
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BenSolar,

So, Radish, do tell us how you address pollution? Are regulations and enforcement of them to protect the commons OK? If not, how do you prevent the industrialists from smothering various populations in smog?

Hmmm... drifting pretty far OT... but I guess there's always the "Ignore Thread" link for Battery Technology readers who don't want to read political discussions (it seems pretty unlikely anything on-topic is going to be posted in this thread hence).

OK, how I would address pollution is as follows (simplified to fit within a manageable post size). In my view, the purpose of a government is to have a monopoly on wielding force. In forming a government, the people agree not to use force themselves, and the government becomes the sole user of force to solve problems... subject to significant limitations imposed by the people. In the case of the US, those limitations were spelled out in the Constitution, for example. Whenever a problem is so significant that the use of force is morally acceptable, then that's a problem for the government to solve.

The big traditional examples are protecting the country from invasion, and preventing people from using force themselves, both of which clearly require the use of force. Another obvious example would be enforcing a minimal set of laws, for example contract laws, without which free trade would be impossible or very difficult. Yet another would be enforcing property rights, again without which free trade is impossible.

There's no need to invoke "the commons", which is a nebulous term in my view, to address pollution. You simply need to enforce property rights. Someone putting soot into my air (that is, the air on/above my land) or into, say, my lungs — without my permission — is violating my property rights. Obviously, a single soot particle on rare occasion is irrelevant, practically speaking. So, in my view, the role of government is to establish reasonable limits on soot emission that reaches other people's property. A law forbidding anyone from emitting more than x number of soot particles per cubic meter of air per hour would be a proper role of government. "Emitting" here means the soot leaves their property (clearly, if it leaves their property it enters someone else's, and is therefore a violation of someone else's property rights).

But it's only a proper role if the rules are tangible (a law forbidding "too much" or "excessive" soot emission would not be proper, since there's no way to comply) and reasonable (again, a law forbidding a single particle of soot per cubic kilometer per decade would not be proper). And the restrictions must be appropriate to the severity of the problem. In some cases, an outright restriction with strict penalties for non-compliance would be called for. For example, emitting large quantities of plutonium should probably be outright forbidden. In other cases, where the emissions are annoying but not dangerous for example, a restriction with modest penalties would be appropriate. And in still other cases, the law might allow emissions up to a certain level, but impose a tax (or fee, if your prefer that term) on those emissions... so as to limit the total emissions of all sources combined, rather than to limit the emissions of individual sources.

Again, all such laws would be based on the notion of protecting the property of individuals, and of the government, from damage. Ideally, the laws would be based on indisputable realities of physics or on unbiased research as to the levels of damage inflicted. In real life, especially with respect to pollution, there would probably be instances where the amount of damage a pollutant does is unclear even with extensive research. Clearly, there'd be debate back and forth, and whether a law is "reasonable" (in the paragraphs above) is subjective.

Second, people want to be protected not only from damage to their property, but also from significant risk of damage. For this, laws requiring people engaging in risky activities to post a bond or hold insurance adequate to cover the possible damages are appropriate. In the case of insurance, history shows that requiring a second level of insurance is appropriate especially when multiple simultaneous events are possible. To give an example, if an oil company wants to ship large tankers of oil, a reasonable person might conclude that a leak in such a ship is possible and damage to other people's property might occur in a large scale. Laws could require that company to have sufficient insurance to cover the damages so caused. And laws could require that the oil company's insurance company be insured by another level of insurance, in case multiple events they cover happen so closely together that the firm lacks resources to cover them all.

Again, risk can be difficult to ascertain objectively, so there'll probably be debate on what bonds/insurance are necessary and adequate and what is reasonable to assure that insurance companies can actually pay.

Again, this is only an overview. I my mind, protection of property rights is so important that the use of force for that protection is appropriate. Therefore, it is an appropriate role for government.

To get back to topic, having yet another team doing battery research (and a team that has no "skin in the game" at that), is absolutely positively NOT so important that the use of force to achieve it is appropriate. Therefore, it is not an appropriate role for government.

Phil
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BenSolar,

Iridium was more a deployment of existing technology than R&D like the advanced battery hub, if I'm not mistaken.

Correct. It's like a cell phone system, but instead of the towers being fixed and the user racing by in his car, the user is (essentially) fixed in position and the towers are racing by in their satellites. So it's not a good example specifically of a company embracing a long-term research project. It's only an example that companies do in fact engage in long-term projects, and in fact are not driven solely by quarterly or annual results. I could doubtless have come up with better examples, but I thought it had additional impact to show that one doesn't have to look too far to find an example of a long-term private project: one had already been mentioned in this thread alone!

I agree, by the way, that there are companies that have both the money and inclination to take on an R&D project of this scale and timeline. I hope that some do. I'm pretty sure other entities around the world are working on it, for example the Japanese private-public partnership that produced the solid state Li-ion battery research I linked to before. The more the merrier!

I'm sure many are working on projects that have the exact same goal of producing a better, cheaper battery. Another reason why there's no reason whatsoever to spend taxpayer money on it. And the private projects are motivated: if they fail, it's their own money they'll lose. In this taxpayer-funded project, "the pay is the same" whether they succeed or not; they'll get paid whether they even try or not. Indeed, if they were to complete a major breakthrough in the next 12 months, it would make sense to say "thank you, now we'll cancel the remaining years and you can all go home". If there's any motivation, it's to not come up with something ready for commercialization, and to insist that "more research is vital".

Phil
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jwiest,

But you expand that to imply that "unfettered" is better, and I say "that's conditional". I stand by my position that it's conditional because it's been proven through modern history, and we are living through a history that proves your "unfettered" doesn't work in the long term.

We agree, although I suspect we disagree on what "unfettered" means. To me, it means without contract laws or the enforcement of property rights. Things like using violence in sales transactions would be "unfettered".

Phil
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Radish says

It's interesting that Chu lists Bell Labs as a major player in the Manhattan Project. It's the first time I've ever seen anyone do that. Doubtless he thinks invoking the name Bell Labs conjures up warm-and-fuzzies. Usually, the feds use the Moon Landing when they want warm-and-fuzzies for some new federal project. That's probably no good anymore since SpaceX has shown that private industry does space faster, cheaper, and better than the feds ever did.

Previously, you had a lot of people saying: sure, the feds did a big space program, but private industry could have done it better and cheaper. But one could always counter with: no, it couldn't, only the feds could have pulled it off. That counter-argument is no good anymore, now that someone has actually, you know, done it successfully.


Sputnik 1: unmanned low earth orbit, 1957

SpaceX Dragon: unmanned low earth orbit, 2010

NASA Moon landing, 1969

SpaceX manned space flight, not yet.


SpaceX is impressive, but it will be a few years, maybe decades, before you can say "private industry does space faster, cheaper, and better than the feds ever did" and be taken seriously.
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crassfool,

SpaceX is impressive, but it will be a few years, maybe decades, before you can say "private industry does space faster, cheaper, and better than the feds ever did" and be taken seriously.

If you had listed the dollar amounts spent for each of those, and included the Constellation/Orion/Ares project in your list, you'd see why so many people already take it seriously.

The SpaceX Dragon has already been manned while in space, by the way. In two separate missions.

Phil
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Radish says

"SpaceX is impressive, but it will be a few years, maybe decades, before you can say 'private industry does space faster, cheaper, and better than the feds ever did' and be taken seriously."

If you had listed the dollar amounts spent for each of those, and included the Constellation/Orion/Ares project in your list, you'd see why so many people already take it seriously.

The SpaceX Dragon has already been manned while in space, by the way. In two separate missions.


Get back to me when they have sent a man into space, and when they have landed a man on the Moon.
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crassfool,

Get back to me when they have sent a man into space, and when they have landed a man on the Moon.

SpaceX is on schedule for manned liftoff, and working on a nearly 100% reusable launch vehicle (something NASA wanted to do but never achieved). I can't think of any reason why SpaceX would land a man on the moon, although Elon Musks talks of a manned Mars landing.

How about you get back to me when NASA does, oh, anything cheaper than SpaceX?

Phil
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Radish says

How about you get back to me when NASA does, oh, anything cheaper than SpaceX?

They do smaller projects cheaper than NASA. But your original claim was much larger than that.
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crassfool,

They do smaller projects cheaper than NASA. But your original claim was much larger than that.

Constellation/Orion/Ares was small? Compared to what, the one-and-only Moon project? And what was it supposed to do that Falcon1/Falcon9/FalconHeavy/Dragon doesn't?

The space shuttle was a pretty big project, wasn't it? Too bad it never met the goal of being reusable (certainly it failed to realize any economies from reuse). There's not really all that much the shuttle could do that the Falcon/Dragon lineup can't do. And SpaceX almost certainly will actually achieve some economical reuse.

I guess it's fair to say I was wrong if you reword my original claim to say private industry always does space faster, cheaper, and better (which of course isn't what I said). The moon project was pretty fast. Of course, there was no practical reason for it to be done that fast — arguably no practical reason to do it at all — except for US bragging rights. OK, so the government did a useless (or nearly useless) project really fast, at astronomical expense. I'll give them that one. But if you want something practical done on a realist schedule and economically, you're far better off with private sources.

Phil
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Radish says

I guess it's fair to say I was wrong if you reword my original claim to say private industry always does space faster, cheaper, and better (which of course isn't what I said). The moon project was pretty fast. Of course, there was no practical reason for it to be done that fast — arguably no practical reason to do it at all — except for US bragging rights. OK, so the government did a useless (or nearly useless) project really fast, at astronomical expense. I'll give them that one. But if you want something practical done on a realist schedule and economically, you're far better off with private sources.

Maybe. I'm no big fan of the way NASA does things, and I actually think manned space exploration is a waste. But "does space" seems like you meant it to cover, you know, everything. If you want to talk about everything, SpaceX hasn't done as much of it as NASA has, and they do use a lot of technology that came out of NASA, as do we all every day.

But you've got a sample of one private-enterprise space effort vs. one government one. I don't think it proves anything about whether it's a good ideas for government to fund battery R&D.
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crassfool,

But you've got a sample of one private-enterprise space effort vs. one government one. I don't think it proves anything about whether it's a good ideas for government to fund battery R&D.

One sample by itself doesn't, agreed.

Phil
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