Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fleecing the taxpayers, $10 million at a time

$10M Prize for Hydrogen Fuel Technology

WASHINGTON May 10, 2006 (AP)— Scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs will be able to vie for a grand prize of $10 million, and smaller prizes reaching millions of dollars, under House-passed legislation to encourage research into hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

Legislation creating the "H-Prize," modeled after the privately funded Ansari X Prize that resulted last year in the first privately developed manned rocket to reach space twice, passed the House Wednesday on a 416-6 vote. A companion bill is to be introduced in the Senate this week.

"This is an opportunity for a triple play," said bill sponsor Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., citing benefits to national security from reduced dependence on foreign oil, cleaner air from burning pollution-free hydrogen and new jobs. "If we can reinvent the car, imagine the jobs we can create."

"Perhaps the greatest role that the H-Prize may serve is in spurring the imagination of our most valuable resource, our youth," said co-sponsor Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.

The measure would award four prizes of up to $1 million every other year for technological advances in hydrogen production, storage, distribution and utilization. One prize of up to $4 million would be awarded every second year for the creation of a working hydrogen vehicle prototype.

The grand prize, to be awarded within the next 10 years, would go for breakthrough technology.

[Inglis] said the prize would not take away funds from any federal hydrogen programs, including the $1.7 billion hydrogen research program that President Bush first detailed in 2003.
It won't just be these millions that government takes from the rest of us to give to a few scientists. What can we bet that a lot of the projects will be funded by government grants? Naturally, this money is on top of the $1.7 billion that President Bush decided to throw at hydrogen research. Every time government subsidizes a particular type of research, whether hydrogen and fuel cells for automobiles, or ethanol, we should reflexively ask: what's so unproven and uncertain about it that the private sector won't fund the research, leaving it to government funding it by force? (If you don't think it's done by force, just try holding back your share the next time you file your taxes.)

Inglis talks about creating jobs by reinvention when he should instead study Bastiat's "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen" essay. The prizes are merely money taken from some and given to others, so any created jobs come at the expense of other jobs destroyed elsewhere. The redistribution is still both morally and economically wrong, whether it stems from special interest lobbying or politicians' desire to appear benevolent and pro-science by doling out well-publicized rewards.

Besides, it's not the concern of government bureaucrats that any submitted projects make it to production in the real world, only that they choose something "creative" for the winning designs. The free market already has the capability of encouraging truly "breakthrough technology" and rewarding its creators: profit. If your new design is innovative but still impractical because it will be prohibitively expensive, then it won't succeed. If you design something new that enough people will want and can afford, the encouragement of a government prize is unnecessary; in fact, it won't compare to the rewards offered by the private sector. Particularly if you develop major automotive technology, you won't be worrying about a paltry $10 million prize.


Anonymous Brad Warbiany said...

Yes, it's bad. But I consider this better than government investing money directly through grants.

I'd rather the government leave it all up to the private sector. But if they're going to stick their nose where it doesn't belong, I'd rather they do it in the way that most allows the private sector to do what they do best: compete.

Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger CaptiousNut said...

Don't forget all of the fraud committed to get these precious grants.

Just look at the stem cell debacle. How much total money has been thrown at "scientists" based on that?

Friday, May 12, 2006 5:35:00 PM  

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