Was $10 million government prize competition corrupted?
Something smells very bad in the Department of Energy's awarding of a ten million dollar prize to Philips Lighting. The requirements of a competition the Department sponsored (without congressional authorization) for an LED bulb appear to have been lowered to enable a winner to be declared.
If propaganda, not technological progress was the goal of the prize, then the move makes sense. Green enthusiasts desperately want technology to obey their wishes. Any reminder that "green" LED technology actually isn't ready yet would be anathema to propagandists. So a propagandist would not mind handing over 8 figures to a foreign owned company.
Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon has obtained documents explaining the compromising of the standards. First of all, the competition's target cost of the bulb was $22. Philips came in at $50. If these expensive bulbs are to be sold to the public as an invetsment that will be paid off in lower electricity bills, the small matter of a doubling of the investment required is no small matter.
The explanations are somewhat technical for the other compromising of the standards relating to the requirement of 900 lumens of output. Read the Free Beacon article for a fuller understanding
I hope that Congress wilol investigate the prize. As McMorris reminds us:
A House Appropriations Committee report issued in June slammed the department for announcing the $10 million prize without prior approval from Congress.
"The Committee strongly opposes the Department announcing funding opportunities when those funds have not yet been made available by Congress," the report said. "In the case of the L Prize, the Department risks damaging its credibility."
The warning was enough to worry higher-ups at Philips, which spent nearly $1.8 million lobbying Congress to fund the program.
Prize competitions can be a good way to encourage technological development. But compromising standards is counterproductive, worse than merely a waste of money. The message sent to would be tech pioneers is that the fix is in, and that the prize offer was not really honest or serious.