Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Encouraging addiction?

Before the government sends drivers a $100 check to "ease the pain at the the pump" could we consider some alternatives? This giveaway would "cost" $25B ($100 x ~250 million people) and do nothing to resolve the underlying oil dependency issue. Do you think Senator Frist would support giving "rebate" checks to drug addicts? Not bloody likely...and yet that is his prescription for oil-oholics.

The US Dept. of Energy spends under $2 per person annually on renewable energy R&D, and around $4 per person on all renewable programs (~$1B). One particularly good program is the Energy Star program which helps consumers identify efficient home appliances (only gets $50M a year). At least that was my read of the 2006 budget (frankly it is a challenge to decipher government budgets since everything is stated as a % increase or decrease from the prior year). Why don't we first double, triple or even quadruple investment in the DOE's renewables program? Cost $2-$5B.

We could start a National Sustainable/Secure Energy Foundation (NSEF) modeled on the NSF (National Science Foundation). I'd propose initial funding at $1-2B with a 50-50 academic-industry split to dispersing funds. Grants for funding would be evaluated/approved by expert panels before funding, like the current NSF program. Cost $1-2B

The government could offer a series of $1-5M E-prizes (modeled on the X-prize) for demonstrated solutions (i.e. they gotta work) to pernicious energy problems, open to individuals, university (student) teams and start-ups. Cost (?) $20-30M

We need to treat the disease (fossil fuel dependency/oil addiction), not the symptoms (high gas prices). Additional ideas welcome.


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