28 Jan 2011

Subsidized Techology and Cold Weather

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Charles Lane was moved by a bad commuting experience to reflect on the insanity of governmental efforts to promote less efficient and impractical automotive technologies in the name of environmentalism.

Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address. …

This subsidized market niche is just one well-publicized malfunction away from disaster. Perhaps a Volt battery will overheat and burst into flames, as some computer batteries have been known to do. Or maybe a Leaf driver will suffer frostbite while stuck in the next blizzard. Let’s just hope one of his neighbors pulls over to help him out.

Modern efforts by government to promote the use and adoption of inefficient and uneconomic technologies by cash subsidies in pursuit of newer, tidier means of doing things we can do perfectly well and much more cheaply already resemble the obsessive efforts of pre-modern European princes to create gold by funding alchemical experiments. Throwing money in the direction of superstition does not actually create new industries and technologies. It just wastes money.

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