The Manhattan Project created a product, where the cost was no object, to prove we could do something that would help us win the war. Energy technologies are ones we’ll need to buy, which we’ll do only if it makes economic sense. Government isn’t bad at grand technological feats. It is terrible at intentionally creating commercial products.Peter is not opposed to government support for basic research and development, but that's not what Gates and his cronies are calling for. They want the government to spend our money in an effort to bring new commercial products to market. As Peter points out, this has been tried before (e.g., with synfuels) and it has failed every time. On what basis should we expect a different result this time? As smart entrepreneurs, Gates and his friends should know better. Peter concludes that we should start taking their calls seriously, when they start putting their own money where their mouths are.
It's unfortunate that Peter's column appeared in a journal with a limited local circulation. It deserves national attention.