Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Other One Has Bells on It... 

Somehow, I just can't believe an oil man talking about alternative energy sources and weaning America off of that lovely black gold. Texas Tea. Oil, you know. Okay -- I can't believe anything W says, especially since he made his announcement here
On Tuesday, he is scheduled to visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, where 32 jobs at the labs were eliminated by budget cuts earlier this month. Those jobs were restored two days before the president's visit.
And one wonders how soon after the TV cameras go away that those jobs will be cut again.

Okay, here's how to get to those alternative sources damn fast. It's kind of an X-Prize for energy. To the first company that markets an all-electric car that can run eight hours on a single battery charge (or run off of solar energy), meet the safety requirements of current cars and cost less than $20K -- a ten million dollar bounty, plus -- no Federal Tax Liability for the company or its employees for ten years, as in nothing due, nothing to file.

Same thing for the first company to create a solar cell that can power an average home for a family of four for twenty-four hours on eight hours of charge when there's only 20% sunshine.

And the first company to create a home system that will recycle plastics into electricity...

And for the first company to invent a stove that can cook a meal in comparable times to a gas oven at 450° using neither gas nor electricity... and for a company that comes up with a refrigerator that uses less than 90 Watts of electricity a month, and a clothes dryer that does its thing with no electricity at all.

Same thing for the first company to create a rechargeable 1.5V battery that is also totally biodegradeable in a landfill; likewise the first computer monitor to meet the same conditions.

The list could go on and on; basically, assemble a panel of futurists and Science Fiction writers to come up with their "Wishlist 2050", then dare the business community to make it happen by 2020. Sure, some things will still be impossible or just wild dreams. But others... you'd be surprised. And remember, this would be a double incentive. Not only would the big-ass company, like IBM or 3M or Monsanto or DuPont or whatever, benefit -- but every employee thereof, from CEO to mailroom boy, would also benefit. And trust me, when you offer a mid-level scientist an incentive along the lines of an effective 38% a year raise and no need to see the accountant during the first quarter of the year, you're going to create a mid-level scientist who will work his ass off to solve a problem. Not to mention a mailroom boy who actually has a reason to walk up to the white-coats and say, "Hey, y'know what... I may be crazy, but have you considered a combination of X and Y, plus Z?"

In a way, I'm cribbing this idea from Robert Anton Wilson, who postulated long ago the concept of the "design yourself out of a job" lottery. Or, well, not really a lottery, but with the same benefits. His idea was this: offer a bounty; anyone who designed themself out of a job through automation would be entitled to receive an annual salary for life of $50K, and anyone put out of a job by such a design would receive an annual salary of... I think it was $10K, but I don't remember. He was very pragmatic about it, figuring that 20% of the people so unemployed would become useless drains on the state -- but the other 80% would then go on to figure out how to design themselves out of more jobs, and so become millionaires even as everyone else climbed into the leisure class.

Likewise, let the scientists loose, give them multiple X Prizes for multiple things, and give us the promises of the future that have been part and parcel of American Culture since the 50s.

Weren't we supposed to be living on the Moon and driving flying cars by now?

But... I don't trust W's pronouncements on this for a second. I think he's just waving the "Energy Sufficiency" flag as a way of justifying attacking Iran in the spring -- 'cause then he'll be able to say, "Well, we didn't manage it, so we've got to secure that black crude, which means bombing another bunch of towelheads."

Yeah -- the day an oil millionaire sincerely believes we need to eliminate America's dependence on oil is the day that monkeys fly out of my ass.

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