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Friday, February 18, 2005

Kingpin Projection

EE Times published a curious letter from T.J. Rodgers of chip manufacturer Cypress Semiconductor which essentially lambasted energy evangelist Richard Smalley for excess self-promotion:
It is true that sometime after my lifetime (I'm 56), we will run out of oil, in the sense that the oil available will be lower in supply and much higher in price. At that time, we will either have to consume less energy or turn to alternative sources, such as solar power.
Professor Smalley should stop talking about megagrants and megaprojects until he can articulate a clear-cut path as to how nanotechnology can contribute to the improvement of the solar industry in a vision at least as specific as the one above.
I have a couple of problems with Rodgers attitude. First, I don't believe Smalley has ever placed his research priorities above those of achieving a cooperative energy solutions, especially in regards to any public lecture he has given. Secondly, even if Smalley has advocated nanotechnology solutions elsewhere, this should not surprise anyone; when it comes to "domain" research solutions, he well should concentrate on what he specializes in.

Whether or not Smalley provides a rebuttal to this accusation, it points to a coming battle over turf between free-market solutions and government-funded initiatives. Unfortunately, T.J. Rogers has had a long-running history of taking a libertarian attitude to government interference (see keynote address of 1999 California Libertarian Party convention -- co-billed with Tim Lambert's arch-nemesis John Lott!).

Bottom-line, Rodgers has perfected the fine art of projection. By accusing Smalley of steering the government to potential solutions or common goals (ala the 60's space program), he actually secretly wants this money for himself. And like every corporate kingpin, he will likely use every trick in the book to get it.

Couple together a 25-year-old unnecessary slime of Carter with a few right-wing talking points and Rodgers is well on his way of currying favor with the current administration.
Rodgers:Smalley's solution to the energy problem is for the government — preferably under a "visionary" leader such as Jimmy Carter — to spend huge sums to focus carbon-based nanotechnology, buckyballs and nanotubes on solar-energy applications. He wants the taxpayer to fund his vision. Smalley puts your money where his mouth is.

We could be seeing our next Secretary of Energy in the making.


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