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Throw Money At It

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
By Dan

Yesterday, former President Bill Clinton lamented that the green industry needs more money.  A $1.4 trillion industry (2008) needs more money?  That’s almost 6% of the global economy; larger than most major sectors, including construction, utilities, retail sales, wholesale trade, information, mining, agriculture, and transportation.  In fact, it’s bigger than agriculture, utilities and education and arts and entertainment–combined!  And that doesn’t account for the overlap.

Total investment in just renewable energy (a subsector of the green industry) was $211 billion in 2010 (see also, here at page 35). To give you a sense of size, the entire US pharmaceutical industry R&D budget for new medicines and vaccines in the same period was $67.4 billion.  For every $1 a US company spends trying to cure cancer, Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes, the world spends $3.10 inventing, manufacturing and selling panda-shit burners, solar panels, corn-based gasoline and wind farms.

Not enough money is not the problem in the green industry.  For one thing, you cannot sell something for $3 when it costs $6 to make and expect to continue for long.  Talk about unsustainable.  Natural economic failure, the lack of a real threat, bad science and politicians trying to pick winners is the problem in the green industry.  Moreover, less than half of Americans believe that Global Warming™ is caused by man, if at all.

But this reflex response is not limited to the green industry.  Liberals have the same reaction when it comes to spending money on education. But there is no evidence that simply increasing the budget will improve results.  Even the uber liberal Center for American Progress, in their exhaustive, district by district review of educational spending, had to admit that “without clear controls on how additional school dollars are spent, more education spending will not automatically improve student outcomes.”  Not a ringing endorsement for more spending.

Indeed, increasing investment in a company, an industry or even a school can have unintended consequences.  When a budget is tightened, management has to make harder choices.  If you run a business and have an unlimited budget, you will never need to decide whether it’s better to send your account manager, Mark to Denver or your business development lead, Kim to San Diego.  You can send them both.

But when spending is limited, choices have to be made.  An effective manager (with accurate information) is one who can make the right choice and put every dollar spent to the most productive use.  If you think this is all theoretical, it’s not.  No well run company will invest in a start up until it is big enough to know what to do with the money.  In addition, a company with a tightened belt will comb its expenses reports, accounts payable and accounts receivable and ferret out fraud, waste and abuse.  All of these factors will increase the productivity of every dollar invested.  In other words, more money doesn’t buy better results.  Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles.



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4 Responses to “Throw Money At It”

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  2. Pip

    In response to another of your posts, I discussed the role of government investment, but here, I just want to point out that referencing what the American public “believes” as if it has any meaning means based on your resume that you are just being a huge tool. I assume you’re smart enough based on your education and work history that you know the American public is not a reliable scientific source. Go look at the IPCC report, a group comprised of the best and brightest scientists working in fields related to the issue of climate change. It’s happening. The disturbing part is the reports are written in a very conservative way. There’s the gentle pull of industry and politics, but the much stronger pull of the scientific community to not overstate the problem, and so every year, the problem is worse than the report will state, atmospheric changes that they marked a few years ago to occur in a decade, are already here. I don’t want to be negative towards you, but I think you’re smart, and you have to know that the American public is in many situations a poor source of information, and that the form of rhetoric that depends on that statement is in my opinion a lie. It is a kind of lying to knowingly mislead others. The media and the politicians lie in this way all the time, and I’m frankly uncomfortable with it. Tell me the truth, use the truth, and don’t worry if the truth is difficult, or if the outcome of telling the truth is unpredictable.

  3. Dan

    My point in noting Americans’ lack of concern over Global Warming was not in the manner of scientific proof. Popular opinion (or the number of scientists who agree with a UN report) has no more bearing on science than it does history. If 53% of Americans believed that Germany bombed Pearl Harbor, that wouldn’t make it true. But it is relevant when we talk about on which causes we are going to fritter away taxpayer money. Governing is choosing, and it’s a poorly governed country that goes bankrupt spending money on a crisis that its people either don’t believe is happening or don’t believe can be solved by humans. Science is not a democracy, but government spending is subject to one.

    The IPCC is not reliable, and you belie your bias by implying there is any industrial pressure applied to the IPCC. What evidence do you have for such a claim–that an inter-governmental panel of the UN is influenced by corporations? In contrary, the East Anglia Climate Research Unit was censured for conspiring to manipulate data and findings on which the IPCC based its report in order to ensure the study would “prove” Global Warming™ exists. In fact, several of the scientists whose names are used to add weight have objected, say the summary is inconsistent with their findings, and they do not support the hysteria. Tom Tripp, the study’s lead author, is just one:

    Government sponsored research will never find that a problem doesn’t exist. To think so is to be naive to history and human nature.

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