Can't we just stick with what works for the time being?
For an aging performance auto enthusiast, the Tesla Model S is one natty-looking ride -- curiously reminiscent of the Jaguar XKR, the Maserati GranTurismo, and Aston Martin's best recent luxury coupe efforts.
But would Tesla's impressive vehicles ever have made it to their LA showroom floor if not for the same "green" technology enthusiasts who, courtesy of government-backed loan guarantees (GBLGs), brought us Solyndra, SunPower, Beacon Power, Fisker, and, to date, some 32 others, totaling nearly $40 billion?
I thoroughly admire such high-end "toys," but I'm not so naive as to assume that there is sufficient consumer demand for them -- such that the companies who design, develop, and market them can survive on their own. Most high-end performance automobile manufacturers are subsidiaries of much larger mainstream corporations.
While it's true that GBLGs have been a government fact of life since at least 1970, with the government bailout of the Penn Central Railroad, many of the major corporate entities, and their products and services, are still with us in one form or other. Thus, one could argue that the pre-2008 GBLGs were reasonably productive investments of taxpayers' dollars.
By contrast, the recent string of colossal GBLG failures in the "green" technology sector is downright appalling, especially since no residual value now exists in products no longer being produced or competitively marketed for a market that, for all intents and purposes, does not exist -- except in the collective fantasies of the "green" technology enthusiasts.
At least the incrementally improved technology represented by the railroad, airline, and automobile industries, and their products and services, are still with us. Recent CSX RR television ads claim that their trains can move a ton of freight 423 miles on a single gallon of fuel. To date, I've not found solid evidence to suggest that the CSX claim is grossly inaccurate, so, assuming that the CSX claim is reasonably accurate, said fuel mileage is not bad for such "antiquated" non-"green" technology.
Tesla Motors is as good an example as any of GBLGs for the advancement of "green" technologies that no one but the wealthiest, Hollywood celebs, those who have well-paying D.C. jobs, and the somewhat less conspicuous but still well-heeled folks can afford.
In sharp contrast to Tesla, despite considerable research online, other than some nations' government incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient vehicles such as the Prius, I've been unable to locate any substantiating evidence that Toyota did or did not avail itself of government financial assistance to develop the Prius.
It appears that Toyota has since been the recipient of GBLGs; however, in the context of developing new alternative automotive technology, it would appear that Toyota accomplished the development of the Prius without GBLGs. This, to me, seems quite likely the case, especially when I consider that according to Toyota, "Prius" is a Latin word meaning "to go before," and the name was chosen because the Prius was launched before environmental awareness and "green" technologies became mainstream social issues.
Be that as it may be, according to TechFAQ, since 2000, when the first road-ready hybrids were successfully mass-marketed, there are approximately 1,600,000 hybrids on the road worldwide, which is only a miniscule percentage of the estimated 1,000,000,000 vehicles on the road worldwide, according to a recent WardsAuto report. Thus, even the reasonably decent sales of the Prius are no justification for public-sector investment in private-sector ventures.
Bottom line: David Champion's potent observation regarding the Chevy Volt can readily be applied to many "green" technologies: "When you are looking at purely dollars and cents, it doesn't really make a lot of sense. ... This is going to be a tough sell to the average consumer."
Given the depressing state of the global economy, neither I nor anyone in my circle of acquaintance is about to drop nearly $60K for a well-equipped Tesla Model S, or a Chevy Volt, or a Toyota Prius, or any new car, or any significant purchase, for that matter, if we don't absolutely need it, right now.
I reckon it should be rather obvious, then, that, given the depressing state of the global economy, for the foreseeable future, "green" technologies will only be economically viable when there is sufficient mass consumer demand for affordable products -- and not until then.
The Prius is a relatively decent example of what Gregory A. Collins terms "efficiency tech." It's a bit of "green" technology that works and is reasonably affordable, so, for the foreseeable future -- at least until the economy recovers -- couldn't we simply be content with established "green" combined with incrementally improved conventional technology that works...and is affordable?
More to the point, in light of the recent federal GBLG failures, at least until the economy recovers, is it unreasonable to suggest that a moratorium be enacted regarding federal GBLG support for "green" technology development?
M. L. Pershern is a semi-retired architect and, in accordance with the Pew Research Center's "Political Typology" quiz, a "staunch conservative," although he describes himself as an independent constitutional conservative. Recently, he proudly attained a 7.6 rating on Prof. Tim Groseclose's Politcal Quotient survey!