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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

To judge NSA reforms, look to the tech industry

January 21st, 2014


In 1976, Senator Edward Kennedy first introduced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to rein in government scrutiny of Americans. That law made America’s telecommunications companies the gatekeepers of the public’s information. But back then, “Ma Bell” was still around — AT&T wasn’t broken up until 1982 — and mobile phones were a distant dream. Now, nearly 40 years and a tech revolution later, President Obama faced similar questions on how to protect the American people’s privacy.

A majority of Americans think that NSA collection has gone to far, and an even greater percentage think that the data are being used for more that just terrorism. Many don’t trust the government with their personal data. And the public should be worried — the potential for serious abuse of civil liberties is ever-present in today’s surveillance programs. The history of abuses goes back to the Nixon era, and it continued through the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping after 9/11. All of that is well-documented.

Now, people at home and abroad want reassurances that there’s real transparency and powerful checks in the system to prevent potential abuses. But they also want to be protected from terrorism.

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Telephones, computers, electric vehicles, and other market failures

February 15th, 2013


By W. L. Leow

In some circles in Washington, DC, the future of electric vehicles (EV) has become as hot a topic as sequestration or immigration reform. Some skeptical journalists and policymakers are rushing to declare the entire electric vehicle sector a mistake or failure at the first sign of difficulties. Their rhetoric is cogent, writing lucid, and numbers seem compelling. At first glance, the fact that Americans bought just 71,000 plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles in the past two years might make the EV look like a failure. The emergence of EVs, however, needs to be viewed from the framework of technology adoption and diffusion, rather than raw numbers or road trips, to tell the true story.

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Getting High… With a Little Help From Our Friends

December 5th, 2012


In the late 1960s, the Soviet Union designed and built innovative rocket engines for its massive “N-1″ Moon rocket. These “NK-33″ engines were based on a radical new design and on advanced metallurgy that is cutting-edge, even today. But the NK-33s never flew.

After America won the Space Race, Soviet leaders ordered the NK-33s and all other traces of their Moon program to be destroyed. Instead, Soviet rocket scientists ignored their Moscow masters and squirreled away over 100 of their prized NK-33s. After the Soviet Union fell, an American company confirmed rumors about this invaluable rocket cache and eventually bought three dozen, along with U.S. manufacturing rights. Now — some four decades after they were built — two NK-33s are poised to leap from the pages of history and power a new rocket into space.

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There’s no excuse for losing this one…

October 24th, 2011


This piece was originally posted on The National Journal.

“Is America losing the clean energy race?” The simple and sad answer is…yes.

The wealthiest, most innovative and capable nation in modern history risks getting beaten to a pulp in the competition for the $2.3 trillion global clean energy market. What’s worse is that it’s our own fault if we lose.

We know what to do to compete. We need to make it easier for emerging companies to have access to capital through an independent Clean Energy bank and reforms in the tax code that free up private capital. We need to fund innovation so that new technologies are invented and built in the United States. We need to create domestic markets for clean energy technologies by driving demand with a national clean energy standard, a feed-in tariff or price on carbon. Republican and Democratic governors, and the governments of China, India and the European Union have put similar policies in place with great success. Read the rest of this entry »

When did Americans stop tolerating risk?

September 20th, 2011


This piece was originally posted The National Journal Expert Blog.

The real question we should ask about Solyndra is, “When did Americans stop tolerating risk?”

Loan guarantees inherently carry risk. If they didn’t, the loans wouldn’t need guarantors. The U.S. Department of Energy’s program was designed specifically to fund cutting-edge innovations that could not secure sufficient private capital. That’s the way to help potentially breakthrough technologies get off the ground without picking specific winners and losers. The expectation is that a handful of these companies might succeed spectacularly and that some of these companies would fail. This risk was explicitly built into the program by Congress and the Bush Administration at its inception. Read the rest of this entry »

Funding research funds the future

February 7th, 2011


This piece was originally published in The Hill.

$300 million.

That’s a lot of money to spend on a government program.

But what if that program was in fact an investment, one in which $300 million could bring much more in return? If it yielded even $1 billion it would be an enormously successful investment.

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