lunes, 21 de febrero de 2011

The electric car, part III

I started this series about the electric car asking myself if Prime Minister Zapatero was right when he decided to spend taxpayer's money on the electric car. So far, I've concluded that electric cars aren't ready yet and that when they do, some advantages we see now will be long gone. Finally, I take a look at other examples of government spending to see if we are going to drive electric cars in the future.

My first example comes from Japan. After WWII, Japan policy makers decided that the aircraft industry was the key to make the country go forward into the XXth century. Money was invested to create business and companies and build aeroplanes. On the other hand, car makers didn't get any money whatsoever. Today, Toyota, a Japanese manufacturer, is the #1 automaker. Honda builds more engines than any other company. Japanese cars are worldwide known for their reliability, design and quality. But there isn't any aircraft from Japan. Boeing is American and Airbus is European. All the money was wasted.

My second example comes from the Middle Eeast. In the 1980's, western countries told oil producers in the Middle East to invest the money they got from oil in solar technology. It was a brilliant idea. We buy your energy today, and we'll buy your tech in the future. It was so good, that some governments bought it. Solar power plants were built in the middle of deserts, where there is sunlight a plenty. Oil from the middle east is still bought today, but those power plants are abandoned. They just didn't work. Maybe it was too early for such a complicated technology, maybe sandstorms ruin efficiency rates. If you buy a solar panel today, it's likely to come from China, probably with Chinese tech. Nothing to do with the Middle East.

At this point, I assume that spending money from taxpayers on a particular topic doesn't guarantee results. Sure, there are examples out there where government spending has been useful. But my point is that we shouldn't consider that spending as an investment, but as a bet. Unfortunately for Spaniards, Mr. Zapatero is wrong again.

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