Conservatives love to talk about Solyndra and other companies that received “gummint funds,” only to go belly up or run into other problems. The reason they like to point these companies out is that they believe it helps them make a case that the government ought not be in the business of “picking winners and losers,” and they point specifically to the companies that run into trouble as being examples of government ineptitude (the argument goes that the government is like those old Keystone Cop movies…they can’t get anything right, and so, wind up picking a bunch of loser companies to invest in, and wind up losing lots of taxpayer money).

Here’s the thing though: Every year, the government gives away (in the form of subsidy) or loans out at super attractive rates, literally billions of dollars to various companies.

Inevitably, some of those companies run into trouble. This is hardly a new phenomenon, and it didn’t start with the Obama administration.

Incidentally, some $20B in total was given out by the government, and the most comprehensive list I’ve seen to date from the republicans indicates that just over 6% of the money went to companies that ran into some kind of trouble.

In my opinion, that’s not awful, given the worst economic climate since the 1930’s.

Tesla Motors was on the list of companies to receive funding from Uncle Sam (to the tune of $465 million), and, it should be noted that Tesla has had its share of troubles.

The company was founded by internet start up guys, who knew every goddamned thing, and were going to show the old dinosaurs in Detroit how it was done.

They rolled out their Tesla Roadster a few years ago, and nearly went bankrupt trying to solve issues with their car’s transmission system.

Maybe the guys in Detroit knew a thing or two after all, eh?

Ultimately though, it wasn’t Detroit that bailed the company out, but Toyota, who formed a strategic partnership with Tesla to help them solve the issues with their transmissions.

Wonder of wonders, that seems to have done the trick, and the Model S is almost ready for prime time.

Bear in mind that this is the car that conservatives swear does not (cannot!) exist.

This is the game changer.

An all-electric with a mind blowing 250 mile range.

Maybe gummint investment in nascent technology (like…oh, space flight, the internet, etc) is a good thing?

The review for the Model S can be found here, and you can read about the Roadster here.



Update 1: I found this article on a prominent conservative site on the topic. As usual, it misses the point almost entirely.

While it’s certainly true that most of our electricity comes from coal fired plants in the USA, that doesn’t have to be the case forever. If we look at the introduction of the all electric vehicle as just one part of a new (clean) energy paradigm, we can certainly put technology in place to change the makeup of the graph touted at yonder conservative site.

Further, one of the points in the article is this:

A typical 500 MW coal-powered electric plant annually produces 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (the main cause of acid rain) and 10,500 tons of nitrogen oxides, which cause smog and acid rain. Coal-burning also produces smaller amounts of mercury and other problematic elements, including radioactive ones. Oops. In all the hyped-up, ballyhooed hullabaloo about “man-caused global warming,” folks seem to have forgotten about bad ol’-fashioned air pollution — the real thing, which causes massive deaths in places like China, India and Mexico City, but which has been dramatically reduced in our own country because of advanced coal-burning technologies.

An intriguing comment that hurts their argument more than it helps. 1) that aforementioned “typical 500 MW coal powered electric plant” is running anyway (with or without EV’s). We can charge EV’s during non peak hours without significantly boosting the need for additional plants. 2) the article mentions the pollution factor, then goes on to say that the pollution impacts nations like China, India, and Mexico, and aren’t we lucky cos we have better technology which reduces the emissions of our plants! (so basically, the article lays out an objection to EV’s–lots of pollution from coal plants–then shoots it down in the next sentence–but, you know…only in places like Chindia and Mexico…not here, where we’ve gotten around that with better technology.