- Awards might sound like a gimmick, and calling it a gimmick might work if you’re playing a political game of trying to make the other guy look bad, but they might be the best way to make progress. Because if the government is going to set about trying to make a car battery, they are going to have the congressmen all fight over who’s district it is going to be in. Whoever has the most power, get to put the project in their district. And then they put people who helped them running the project. And then they start hiring people. They find a building; they find secretaries, people to answer the phones, people to keep track of finance, janitors to clean the building. All the people who work on the battery are mainly people from the area that are not the most qualified. However if you make a prize to the team that builds the best battery, you will have people from all over the country, who are extremely passionate about what they are doing, and know what they are doing, and are willing to work until 3:00 AM for months at a time trying to make the best battery. These are people who enjoy it and are passionate about it. They work out of dorm rooms, or garages. You don’t have to hire janitors, you don’t have to rent office space, you don’t have to hire secretaries, and set up e-mail accounts. The X prize worked will for getting into space.
McCain released a Web ad saying that Obama opposes “innovation” in general and “the electric car” in particular. The claim is based solely on Obama’s dismissal of McCain’s proposal to award a $300 million prize for development of a battery package capabl of powering electric cars. Obama called McCain’s approach a gimmick, but Obama was criticizing McCain for not going far enough.
Obama said, “I commend McCain for his desire to accelerate the search for a battery that can power the cars of the future. But I don’t think a $300 million prize is enough. When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win--he put the full resources of the US government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people.“
And far from saying ”no to innovation,“ Obama has proposed spending $150 billion over 10 years to develop a variety of new energy technologies.
Source: GovWatch on 2008: Washington Post analysis Jun 26, 2008