Reason Writers Around Town: Fulfilling The President's Green Dreams Through Private Competition

At Forbes.com, Reason Foundation Vice President Julian Morris and Adam Peshek write:

The primary difference between the Oil Cleanup X Challenge and the disastrous federal loan program that gave Solyndra over half a billion dollars is clear:  The government program wasn’t based on results. It loaned money to the companies, like Solyndra, that had the most lobbying influence and best political connections. The oil cleanup contest awarded money for outcomes.  It was an even playing field open to all comers. Companies didn’t compete through grant applications or lobbying. The best products won.

Some governments have started recognizing the merits of prizes over subsidies. In 2009, the governments of the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Russia and Norway, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.5 billion to buy vaccines for diseases that primarily affect people in poorer countries. The first company to develop an effective vaccine is rewarded with a prize in the form of large scale purchases of its vaccine. The push for this prize-like system came after conventional government subsidies for vaccine research failed.

Government shouldn’t be in the business of selecting winners and losers in business at all. But if it is going to attempt to drive “green” innovation, it should use prizes to reward actual results and minimize corruption and corporate welfare. Prizes could be used to increase energy efficiency, cost-effectively convert solar energy to electricity, waste reduction efforts, and drive advancements on any number of environmental issues.  The type of crony capitalism that led taxpayers to waste over half-a-billion dollars on Solyndra needs to be eliminated. And rewarding proven success through prizes is a significantly better policy than subsidizing failure.

 Full column here

More Reason on Solyndra here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Suki||

    Private competition? But someone might make money off of that!

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Competition bad. Cooperation good. Collaboration better.
    As if they were mutually exclusive!

  • J||

    You didn't finish. Competition bad. Cooperation good. Collaboration better. Coercion best.

  • Old Mexican||

    But if it is going to attempt to drive “green” innovation, it should use prizes to reward actual results and minimize corruption and corporate welfare.


    And maximize unicorns and rainbows and happy faces.

    This "prize" thing sounds so cuddly, because there's no way in heaven that the contest can be rigged. No way! Nah-ah!

  • ||

    If it involves govt. they will give themselves an escape hatch so that business as usual (crony capitalism) will continue.

    I feel a waiver program coming on.

  • Old Mexican||

    The type of crony capitalism that led taxpayers to waste over half-a-billion dollars on Solyndra needs to be eliminated. And rewarding proven success through prizes is a significantly better policy than subsidizing failure.


    I've got an even better idea! Why not simply stop the government from spending our money in boondoggles, whether called "subsidies" or "prizes", and let people choose the project THEY want to finance with THEIR goddamned fucking money?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    What? Without sticking a gun in somebody's face? Is that even ethical?

  • ||

    Revolutionary idea! It's hope and change - just not OUR kind of hope and change, so, "Hands behind your back, weirdo!"

  • ||

    The type of crony capitalism that led taxpayers to waste over half-a-billion dollars on Solyndra needs to be eliminated

    Sure. And the Seahawks need to not suck. Neither event is going to happen. Especially with the king of crony capitalists in the White House.

    We are just starting to see the tip of the corruption iceberg at this point. There will be much more.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    There is no iceberg.
    What? Iceberg? No?
    There is no corruption.
    No corruption here.
    These aren't the billions you're looking for.
    Nothing to see here! Move along!

  • ||

    I'm immune to your mind tricks, Jedi.
    I just that I like swimming the in the north Atlantic and bestowing billions on those who felate the anointed one.

  • ||

    JEEEZ!!! "It's just that...." I screwed up, conclusive proof that we need another trillion dollars for public schools.

  • The Indignant Color Green||

    For the record, I feel exploited by this whole conversation.

    I'm much more proud of my work on aliens and powerful gems hoarded by dwarves. And I've done a few gigs in electrical engineering that, while not so flashy, I like to think were worthwhile.

  • ||

    I'M the one with the flashy stuff. IGNORE THEM AT YOUR PERIL!!

  • ||

    Say, didn't I see that another Obama-funded green company has gone tits up?

  • ||

    The President's green dreams are dreams of paying off people who help raise a ton of money for his campaign, by laundering money through ridiculous "businesses" like Solyndra.

    How can private competition possibly do a better job of fulfilling those dreams than what the government does?

  • ||

    Corruption - not a bug, IT'S A FEATURE!!

  • Zeb||

    Now, of course I would also prefer that the government not try to get involved at all, but I think we all know about how much chance there is of that happening. Assuming that some sort of meddling is going to be happening, a results based approach sounds a hell of a lot better than direct, up front subsidies. I'd say the same thing about food safety, airport security and lots of other things where the government tries to micromanage. Just set standards and reward/punish as appropriate.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Fuck government hand-out "prizes" and fuck Reason's promotion of "less bad" statist policies.

  • Mr. Mark||

    Government should not drive "green innovation."

    Government should drive the funding of my Ferrari collection. (I'll drive the Ferraris.)

  • Canman||

    Prizes? Doesn't the market already give those?

    If government has to do something about green tech, It should be something with a sure betefit like nuclear.

    Government finance is supposed to be low risk like t-bils and munis, not junk bonds, ... oh never mind.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement