The Definition of Insanity…

Is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.

Well I think DOE Loan Program Office Acting Executive Director David Frantz may fit that definition.  In a hearing regarding the success of the DOE’s loan program Mr. Frantz had a dubious response when asked:

“Don’t you agree that the loan guarantee program has had a tough record?” Rep. “Cliff” Stearns (R-FL) asked Frantz.

“Ah, quite to the contrary, sir,” Frantz responded, “I think it has been an enormous success.”

Now we all know that’s just not true.  And the reason the program has been such an abysmal failure is twofold.

First the Federal Government has NO business in being a venture capitalist organization.  Not only does it go beyond any powers granted to them by the Constitution, it is impossible for them to be effective because they don’t have any skin in the game.  It’s not their money they’re “lending” and if the company they back fails it is of no loss to them.  In the business world real venture capital and private equity work because their very existence depends on them being right.  They are naturally compelled to strive to pick a winner.

Secondly it is a failure because the reality of alternative energy is that it either isn’t ready for the market (solar and battery technology) or it is completely ineffective (wind).  I’m a technologist and an auto enthusiast.  I look forward to a time when solar panels can charge batteries effectively and the batteries hold a charge for a useful amount of time.  Anyone with a current iPhone or Android can attest that battery time is much less than desirable.  Why then would those same people think that batteries are ready for the automobile?  On the car front, I look forward to an electric sports car with 1000 foot pounds of torque from O RPM all the up through the power band.  But I also look forward to when that car can take me 300-400 miles on a charge as my current sports car can.

If we let the market drive the technology we will get much more than we expect and not be pigeonholed into this “next great technology or that”.  In 200o who saw the advent of the iPod?  It wasn’t government, it was a company whose existence, driven by creativity, their ability to execute, and the market that made it possible.

The Federal Government should stick to what we originally charged them to do and NO MORE.


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