Tom Friedman, champion of central planning:

China is doing moon shots. Yes, that's plural. When I say "moon shots" I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers... and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country's leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities.

Good for them. Of course, by far the most likely outcome is that these dollars will turn out to be poorly invested relative to the uses China's private sector would have turn them to, but... I don't know, it's like going to the moon or something. Hurray! As we all know, the Moon turned out to be chock full of useful resources, such that half a century later we're considering going back sometime in the next half century, maybe.

Tom's sure we're missing the boat by not building electric cars, but there's little reason to think there will be widespread demand for electric cars anytime soon, and the notion Moore's Law applies to auto batteries is pretty silly (and even if it were true, it would mean the best bet is to hold off on massive investment until electrics are more than competitive with gas rather than make huge numbers of cars no one wants with manufacturing processes that will shortly be obsolete). Naturally, Tom's solution to the demand problem is... massive state intervention (bet you didn't see that one coming!).

Europe is using $7-a-gallon gasoline to stimulate the market for electric cars; China is using $5-a-gallon and naming electric cars as one of the industrial pillars for its five-year growth plan. And America? President Obama has directed stimulus money at electric cars, but he is unwilling to do the one thing that would create the sustained consumer pull required to grow an electric car industry here: raise taxes on gasoline.

Oddly enough, most Americans aren't interested in voting themselves 200% higher energy prices for... something or other. Hypothetical future jobs making cars that people only buy because we imposed massive energy taxes, I guess. Once again, democracy stands in the way of progress! Why can't we have five-year plans? It's just not fair.

posted by Dave on 09.26.10 at 04:11 PM


Other than truckers, Europeans do not drive the distances we do - don't have too. In China drivers will again not be going cross country or city to city or suburb to suburb. Intercity only driving is and will be the norm. Again except for truckers. Will their fuel be subsidised?
Fridman probably does not drive either - he has someone do it for him.

LYNNDH   ·  September 26, 2010 4:49 PM

Friedman thinks we ought to raise taxes on gasoline, Gingrich thinks we ought to subsidize it... because the market can't possibly be right. Our political class just can't imagine a world that isn't better off with them running everything instead of getting out of the way of what works.

Lark   ·  September 26, 2010 8:49 PM

Anyone who doesn't believe that the Chi Coms are capable of killing another 500 million or so of their citizens if it fits their perceived central plan is foolish.
They will.

dr kill   ·  September 27, 2010 8:24 AM

Demand for electric cars skyrocketed in Spain last year.
Sales went up by 1500% from 2008, to 15 cars in a single year!

JTW   ·  September 29, 2010 4:35 PM

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