Kicking Demo Projects When They’re Down

Tuesday is time for measured introspection from

In the wake of Solyndra’s failure, pundits have latched on to a simple, compelling narrative: government can’t do energy right.

From synfuels to solar panels to “clean coal” (written, inevitably, with knowing quotation marks), demonstration projects funded by the Department of Energy are described as one failed white elephant after another. Today the DOE is the agency everyone loves to hate (and, at least in Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s case, the agency to forget).

What gets left out (and forgotten) is that virtually every one of today’s major energy technologies exists thanks to sustained US government investments in research, development, and demonstration.

The authors remind us of the long history of federal leadership on really big ideas. There is a line between encouraging innovation and… well, being stupid with other people’s money. Lehman Bros. weren’t terribly good at that equation either…

It’s easy to kick a publicly-funded demonstration project when it’s down. That doesn’t make it right.

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