Friedman on a new energy program

Tom Friedman on the Department of Energy’s proposal to create eight Energy Innovation Hubs for research in advanced technologies — and the question of whether Congress will allocated the requested $25 million to fund these centers:

In my view, Congress should be funding all eight right now for five years — $1 billion — so that we not only get graduate students, knowing the research money is there, flocking to these new energy fields but we get the benefit of all these scientists collaborating and cross-fertilizing.

Friedman can’t believe that we are not moving ahead with such a program. He uses his conversation with Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore as the foil:

The Singaporean is aghast. He simply can’t believe that at a time when his little city-state has invested more than a billion dollars to make Singapore a biomedical science hub and attract the world’s best talent, America is debating about spending mere millions on game-changing energy research.

I agree — we should all be aghast. But we need to do much more in order to assure that these technologies are not only developed but manufactured and deployed in the US (more on this later).
Friedman is using this one program to make a larger point:

This may seem like a little issue, but it is not. Nations thrive or languish usually not because of one big bad decision, but because of thousands of small bad ones — decisions where priorities get lost and resources misallocated so that the nation’s full potential can’t be nurtured and it ends up being less than the sum of its parts. That is my worry for America.

I too fear the thousands of small bad decisions. I know it is a cliche, but death by a thousand cuts is still death. And the cuts are adding up.

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