Monday, September 27, 2010

Remember when we were the do-ers? The innovators?

Thomas L. Friedman
From Their Moon and Ours by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman:

"China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars. Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan."

And from Grist's Jonathan Hiskes on the Friedman essay in Friedman misses what’s really holding America back on clean energy: 

It's a solid piece, with one exception:
Europe is using $7-a-gallon gasoline to stimulate the market for electric cars; China is using $5-a-gallon and naming electric cars as one of the industrial pillars for its five-year growth plan. And America? President Obama has directed stimulus money at electric cars, but he is unwilling to do the one thing that would create the sustained consumer pull required to grow an electric car industry here: raise taxes on gasoline.
Let's put blame where it belongs. Obama isn't trying to raise the gasoline tax because conservatives have made it next to impossible to talk about raising taxes of any sort. Even phasing out tax breaks for millionaires might prove beyond the ability of Congress this fall -- forget taking on something as pocketbook-sensitive as gas taxes.

Consider how absurd our current political situation is: We can't even talk about half the equation of doing government. Politicians can appear at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for spending projects; they can promise spending "cuts" without specifying what they'd cut; but it's suicidal for them to remind voters that it takes money to build rail lines or airports or a world-class education system. No wonder China and Europe are outpacing us.

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