Posts Tagged ‘space race’

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1960 NASA = Engineers? Do we need another Moon Shot?

August 19, 2008

I had an interesting green tech conversation germinated by the statement “my liberal NASA engineer sister says that she can’t vote for Obama.”  This is based on the expectation that Obama lacks support for the current administration’s doomed manned Mars mission.

I’m skipping over the politics to jump into a different issue: solving our energy problems requires a new generation of kick-ass engineers.  Unfortunately, we have not been cultivating a large crop of our best and brightest to become engineers and scientists.

Oil on the Moon!

Oil on the Moon!

Many kids were inspired to become scientists and engineers when the Nation had a clear Space Race objective in the 60s.  I was part of this generation that grew up *knowing* it was cool and fun to build things.  At every level, our schools invested in feeding intellectual curiosity and funding science education.  While few became actual “rocket scientists” many were inspired and America build a huge technological lead.

In my conversation we generally agreed that 1) science/engineering is not inspiring (or profitable) right now and 2) current “energy independence” and “green environmentalism” initiatives are not sufficiently motivating.

These are very solvable problems!  The solution is LEADERSHIP and COMMITMENT to make this a national priority.  People will follow career opportunities and fame.  The X-Prize and DARPA grand challenge models have proven that we can create programs that inspire and reward people to become scientists and engineers.  Let’s put the sexy back in sextant!

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Oil prices up or down? Speculation driving them up?

July 23, 2008

I heard on NPR today that Congress determined rising Oil prices were NOT due to speculation.  Here’s an interesting debate about short & long term future for OilMatthew Simmon‘s, a peak oil advocate, suggests that we should put a floor on the price to prevent short term thinking.  He argues that 1) oil supplies will continue to lag demand and 2) we won’t make the long term changes needed until people stop thinking of this is a oil price bubble.  He says, “stop the witch hunt and start looking for solutions.”

Peak Oil Analyst

Peak Oil Analyst

I believe that our government is highly motivated to find a short term fix to the supply problem.  Inescapable election year politics lead me to predict that we’re likely to have an artificial/short return to low prices to stimulate the economy.  I think this will have much more drastic long term costs.

Alternative energy is the only long term solution .  A price floor will protect investors in alternative fuels because real alternatives need time to reach the mass market.

I’ll suggest again, that we should have a 10+ year “energy independence” initiative like the 1960’s space race where we invest heavily in building the expertise (the people) to solve this problem.  Our nation benefited dramatically from that focus.  A sustainability focus would regain maintain our world leadership.