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This is actually good news in a way, because it's providing a back-door subsidy to clean energy. But it blows another right-wing meme.

Conservatives always recoil in horror when anybody suggests that the U.S. might consider an actual industrial policy: that is, giving government support to fledgling industries that have high potential for future success. The government shouldn't try to "pick winners"—that's a job ONLY for the so-called Free Market!

But the inconvenient truth is that we have always had a de facto industrial policy, and it's called weapons procurement. The Pentagon, which has infinite money, is ever on the lookout for new technologies that will enable them to build the biggest, baddest, smartest weapons in the world. And they'll pay whatever price it takes to be first in line for the new toys. And if that's not industrial policy, then nothing is.

Want to know why we have a thriving microchip industry? Because back in the 1970's the DoD was willing to pay "absurd" prices for the first primitive chips. This enabled the chip makers like Intel to improve their products and processes and reduce costs, and you know the rest. No Pentagon, no commercial microchips. Simple as that.

And it looks like they're doing it again with clean energy…

Some years back, the Pentagon realized that they, like the rest of America, were excessively dependent on imported oil (the Pentagon is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world). For the military, it wasn't just a question of economics, it was national security at stake. And they embarked on a program to reduce that dependence. They even hired Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute fame to show them how.

And now they're aggressively pursuing partnerships with private companies to create solar-powered military bases. Again, spending whatever it takes and helping these companies to scale up production and bring down costs.

Can you say "industrial policy"?

OK, this is good news. But what if we were smart enough to have an industrial policy focused on civilian needs, rather than having to wait for the benefits from military projects to trickle down to society at large? Who knows what we could accomplish?

Maybe we could come up with a different name for it, so it wouldn't arouse the wingnuts.

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