This is a wrap-up of various forward-looking projects and investments underway at Intel.
In the meantime:
“Industrial policy” (a.k.a technological central planning), yep, that’s the ticket! See the following posts here:
- “How Semiconductors Bankrupted East Germany” (2023-01-18)
- “Downfall of the British Automobile Industry”
- “India’s Domestic Computer Industry Failure” (2023-07-18)
It is often said that “industrial policy” involves “government picking winners and losers”. But in reality, government picks only losers, since winners can readily find financing in private markets or grow organically from their own earnings.
For a highly relevant historical example about which we haven’t (yet) had a post here, consider the Japanese Fifth Generation Computer Systems (FGCS) project of the 1980s (1982–1992), run by the then-vaunted Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and “investing” in all of the buzzword technologies of the epoch. All of the usual suspects in the U.S. expressed fear and loathing at the risk this posed to U.S. “technological supremacy” and urged the U.S. to get on the industrial policy bandwagon. When FGCS sputtered to an end in 1994, having spent ¥57 billion, essentially nothing had been accomplished. The copy-cat projects in the U.S., Strategic Computing Initiative and Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC), similarly developed nothing of value except more efficient ways to spend taxpayers’ and borrowed money.
There have been examples of government policy working out (EU GSM standard, US WW2 development), and of private initiatives not working out (railroad bust, great depression). I think the success of such initiatives depends on the quality of the people involved.
I think we’d agree that any large ‘movement’ or ‘investment’ should be evaluated with extreme caution.
It seems that where “industrial policy” could have a place to play is in leveling up the playing field.
Hypothetically, if one country has the kind of regulatory system in which a new battery factory can be built from scratch and producing saleable product in 9 months while another country has the kind of convoluted, over-complicated, lawyer-rich regulatory environment in which it takes 27 months to reach the same goal, it is very clear which country is going to lead the world in electric batteries. Hypothetically, of course.
Somehow, dysfunctional regulatory systems are seldom addressed in “industrial policy” – not enough opportunities for baksheesh, perhaps?
Regulatory relief would be a tremendous boon to any affected industry, especially those facing competition from offshore where more lax and inexpensive standards are in effect. However, this rarely figures in “industrial policy” schemes since, as you guessed, it provides, as Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) puts it, “Insufficient opportunities for graft.”
Much better, from the standpoint of the Beltway crowd, are “laser-targeted” “investments” in specific areas which can be directed to the districts of representatives and states of senators in order to buy their votes for other matters on which they are wobbly, or whose recipients will be generous when campaign fundraising time rolls around.
Here are some of the pork products in the US$ 1 trillion “infrastructure” bill passed in August 2021. There are probably enough graft and kickbacks here to keep a stadium full of Inspectors General busy for several years.
- Carbon management projects: regional direct air capture hubs, $3.5 billion; carbon capture demonstration and pilot programs, $3.47 billion; carbon storage commercialization, $2.5 billion; industrial decarbonization demonstration projects, $500 million; carbon utilization programs, $310 million; and direct air capture prizes, $115 million
- Clean hydrogen programs: regional clean hydrogen hubs, $8 billion; clean hydrogen electrolysis demonstrations, $1 billion; clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling programs, $500 million
- Renewable energy programs: waterpower, $146 million; battery recycling R&D and demonstrations, $125 million; wind energy, $100 million; geothermal energy, $84 million; solar energy, $80 million; energy storage demonstration projects, $505 million
- Nuclear energy: advanced reactor demonstration program, $2.48 billion; industrial research centers, $550 billion
- Critical minerals and materials projects and demonstrations: mineral security project, $802 million; U.S. Geological Survey earth mapping initiative, $320 million; USGS energy and minerals research facility, $167 million; rare earths demonstration facility, $140 million; USGS geological data preservation program, $24 million
Just wave a flag with “advanced batteries” on it and look for a place at the trough.
- DOE will release a National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries that will codify the findings of the battery supply chain review in a 10-year plan to urgently develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain.
- DOE’s LPO will use the approximately $17 billion in loan authority in the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to support the domestic battery supply chain.
- DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) will launch a new effort to support deployment of energy storage projects by federal agencies. It will begin with a federal government-wide energy storage review that will evaluate the current opportunity for deploying battery storage at federal sites. The resulting projects will help build markets for materials supported in other efforts.
One does wonder what that bill would have looked like if the CongressScum voting for it also had either to vote for higher taxes to pay for it or vote to cut other spending to make room for it?
Just think how much the quality of government would be improved if elected incumbents in any office were automatically disqualified from running for re-election or for election to any other office! Our current “democracy” is dysfunctional – but that does not mean that other forms of democracy could not be effective.
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut. The wise choice of investment is based on probabilities. It is better to bet on the team that is 10 and 1 than the team that is 1 and 10. Yes the 10 and 1 team has had failures and the 1 and 10 team has had success, but it isn’t wise to bet on the 1 and 10 team.
According to the Brookings Institute the atomic bomb cost 20 billion in 1996 dollars so roughly 40 billion in BidenBucks. So the “infrastructure” bill funds the equivalent of 25 atomic bomb like programs.
It is also important to note that the spending on the Bomb wasn’t all simply allocated but was spent based on progress.
Below is a quote from the Mitchell Republic (Mitchell SD newspaper). This is just one example of the lack of need for government spending when the private sector is already investing. Or maybe the pigs were already lining up in anticipation of the slop that was about to be shoveled.
The 2,000-mile, $3.7 billion Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would cross 469 miles in South Dakota , carrying 12 million tons of CO2 northward each year from 32 ethanol plants in five states to a site in central North Dakota, where the CO2 would be buried and permanently stored more than a mile underground.
Why is the private sector “investing” $Billions on a scheme to take CO2 and bury it in the ground? The revenues from burying the CO2 deep underground are obviously $0 – except for government mandates & subsidies. Or, as we say in this part of the world, government spending.
All this shows is the extent of government-induced distortions in what are nominally “private sector investments”.
I coined the term “technosocialism” during the promotion of the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 to describe the horror of government technology development’s multi-dimensional destruction of technological progress – not just in launch services of course, but also in, for example, fusion energy.
I then discovered an even more insidious form of socialism that cripples technology winners from finding private financing – something I began calling “capital welfare” in the paper I wrote shortly after the LSPA of 1990, which results from taxing income rather than taxing net assets. That’s when I started getting really pissed off at neolibertarians for burying the ideas of paleolibertarians like Lysander Spooner beneath a dung-heap of rhetorical excellence.
Commies and neolibertarians are in a deadly – self-sustaining – embrace that is crushing humanity.
Well, one can also use C in other ways.
"The material is then soaked in a standard electrolyte material, such as potassium chloride, a kind of salt, which provides the charged particles that accumulate on the carbon structures. "
Hmmm! Most concrete is poured around iron rebar to give the material some tensile strength. Civil Engineering types have long been concerned about what might happen as that rebar corrodes – for example, if it were exposed to salt solutions. It might be a little bit hopeful to have their super-capacitor do double duty as a foundation as well as being a battery.
But your bigger point is of course correct. Certainly, carbon dioxide and elemental carbon are valuable substances. The easiest commercial use of CO2 is in greenhouses, where the life-giving CO2 enhances plant growth and earns a return by helping to feed humans. All the more reason for condemning the wastefulness of spending large amounts of money/resources to bury the CO2 uselessly instead of using that CO2 productively.