There are some that think science is too important for the free market. This flies in the face of American exceptionalism and history. Free markets with proper patents and copyrights have provided science with the quickest path toward advancement.
When politician and government officials control science funding, corruption or incompetence is often to follow. A clear example of this is AIDs funding. In the early 1980’s major political pressure was put on politicians to fund AIDs research. Other medical research that had many more deaths involved received far less.
Scientists respond to incentives just like everyone else. In the area of climate change, the people passing out research grants know what answers they're seeking, so they pass out grants to those predisposed to give their conclusions. Scientists know from experience that they are far more likely to be given additional grants if they can conclude what the funder’s desire. This becomes a loop that distorts scientific funding.
Offshore wind farms can tame hurricanes rather than be destroyed by them, says ground-breaking research led by Stanford University that touts the benefits of wind power.
That's the finding of a ground-breaking study today that says mammoth offshore wind farms can tame hurricanes rather than be destroyed by them. It says a phalanx of tens of thousands of turbines can lower a hurricane's wind speed up to 92 mph and reduce its storm surge up to 79%.
Unlike sea walls, which protect cities from storm surges, wind farms pay for themselves by generating pollution-free electricity, says lead author Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University. "The additional hurricane (protection) benefit is free."
No offshore wind farms currently operate in the United States, although 11 are under development — mostly off the East and Texas coasts. Most of the world's offshore turbines are in northwestern Europe, but China is ramping up its capacity.
Jacobson says his study, published online in Nature Climate Change, is the first to look at how offshore turbines interact with hurricanes. He says the impact may seem surprising but makes sense: Turbines produce power by taking energy from wind and thus slowing it down.
His team used complex modeling to simulate the impact that tens of thousands of turbines — more than exist in any single wind farm worldwide — would have had on three hurricanes: Sandy and Isaac, which struck New York and New Orleans, respectively, in 2012 and Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.
TAMING TWISTERS: Can giant walls stop tornadoes?
An array of 78,000 wind turbines — each 50 feet tall — off New Orleans could have slowed Katrina's wind speeds up to 78 mph and cut its storm surge up to 79%. An even larger phalanx off the East Coast could have reduced Sandy's winds up to 87 mph and its storm surge up to 34%. These farms minimize a city's storm surge most when located directly upwind.
Jacobson says smaller offshore wind farms also reduce a hurricane's wrath but at a lesser rate. Overall, "turbines cost much less than sea walls to protect a city given that the turbines also generate electricity," says the study, co-authored by Cristina Archer and Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware.
"It's potentially significant," Mark Powell, atmospheric scientist at NOAA's Hurricane Research Division in Miami, says of the research, adding it shows an extra benefit of a carbon-free energy source.
"This is a pretty neat idea, but it's expensive and borderline feasible," says Stephen Rose, an expert on wind energy at Carnegie Mellon University. He led a 2012 study that said hurricanes could destroy some turbines. Yet his team later issued a correction, saying there's only a 7% risk of hurricanes destroying at least half of turbines off the Gulf Coast and almost no chance of such damage on the East Coast.
"It's not practical — 78,000 turbines," says Dominique Roddier, an engineer who's working on a new design for a floating wind turbine by Seattle-based Principle Power, referring to the size of wind farms in Jacobson's study. "That's an insane number of wind turbines. You can't build that many."
The two largest pending offshore U.S. wind farms — the Deepwater Wind Energy Center in New England and the Baryonyx Rio Grande Wind Farms in Texas — are each slated to have at most 200 turbines.
Jacobson says large offshore wind farms can be a more cost-effective way to generate power than fossil fuels, given the additional benefits of reducing pollution and hurricane damage. He says even existing turbines can withstand wind speeds of up to 112 mph — typical of a Category 2 or 3 hurricane -- and a large array could slow the wind enough to prevent turbine damage from a more powerful storm.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which is promoting offshore wind development along the coasts and the Great Lakes, says it's capable of generating four times as much electricity as do all current U.S. power plants.
End Government Science Funding
By Terence Kealey
April 11, 1997
The big myth about scientific research is that government must fund it. The argument is that private companies will not fund science, especially pure science, for fear that their competitors will “capture” the fruits of that investment. Yet, in practice, companies fund pure science very generously, and government funding displaces private research money.
Zvi Griliches of Harvard University, in a study of 911 large American companies, discovered that the companies that engaged in basic research consistently outperformed those that neglected it.
Most of the benefits of a company’s basic science are indeed “captured” by competitors. When Hiroyuki Odagiri and Naoki Murakimi studied the 10 largest Japanese pharmaceutical companies, which collectively enjoyed $13 billion sales in 1981, they found that on average each company had an annual return of 19 percent on its own investment in research and development. But each company obtained the equivalent of a 33 percent annual return on the R&D done by the other nine companies. Each company was, therefore, apparently free riding on the other nine.
But there is no such thing as a free ride in R&D. Only highly skilled research scientists can capture other people’s science. And since the best scientists are those who are actually doing research, to retain their services, companies have to fund them with considerable generosity and considerable freedom.
Thus we see that “capture” is the solution to, not the problem of, the industrial exploitation of pure research. Basic science is so vast, worldwide, and so unpredictable that no individual company can hope to cover its own needs. So companies have to fund scientists’ in-house pure research to retain their services as agents of capture.
Consequently, the quality of industrial science is remarkable. “Current Contents” magazine recently reviewed the institutions that produced the largest number of cited papers in biology, and two of the top seven were private companies: Genentech and Chiron. The others were charitable foundations. One, the Howard Hughes Foundation, is totally private, while the others three (the Salk and Whitehead Institutes and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) do accept some government money.
That destroys another myth: that only governments will fund scholarship. The rich, as Nietzsche wrote, have a need to give. Only last year David Packard, of Hewlett Packard, left $4 billion to his research foundation. His thousands of philanthropic predecessors include Howard Hughes (whose foundation spent $332 million on research in 1991); W. M. Keck ($95 million); John D. Rockefeller (whose foundation funded both the discovery of DNA as the genetic messenger and the development of penicillin); and Andrew Carnegie.
Ordinary people, too, will fund academic research. Witness the great charities such as the American Heart Association ($105 million in 1991) and the American Cancer Society ($94 million).
Without government funding of science, the United States overtook Britain around 1890 as the richest country in the world. So strenuously did Congress disapprove of federal involvement in research that it refused James Smithson’s bequest in 1829 and only grudgingly accepted it in 1846. (His gift helped establish the Smithsonian Institution.)
War changed everything. The National Academy of Sciences was created in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, to help build ironclads to beat the South. The Office of Scientific Research and Development, which ultimately spawned the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, was created in 1941.
Then the USSR launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, in 1957. The Soviets were going to destroy us from space! So in 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created, and the U.S. Congress passed the National Defense Education Act to pour money into higher education and science. Yet, remarkably, U.S. economic growth was unaffected. The U.S. per capita gross domestic product has grown at around 2 percent a year since 1820, and the government largesse of the last 50 years has not altered that. Why not?
The funding of science is not a political decision; it is economically determined. There is a very tight correlation between the per capita wealth of a country and the quantity and quality of its scientific papers, and of its investment in civil R&D. That is because nations get richer by introducing new technology. A rich country can do that through research, but a poor one can only copy.
Thus leading companies in advanced countries spend increasing amounts of money on research to develop new products. If a company is sited in a country that has low taxes, it simply invests its own money; if it lies in a country with high taxes, it lobbies its government to fund its R&D. Either way, successful companies in rich countries ensure that their research needs are met (though, in practice, companies in low-tax countries can find more money than can those in high-tax countries).
Companies in poor countries, however, ignore research, as their technology is borrowed and they are more interested in basic infrastructural needs such as roads and electricity. Thus the funding of science is an industrial, economically based decision, which only appears to be political.
Further, government funding of university science is largely unproductive. When Edwin Mansfield surveyed 76 major American technology firms, he found that only around 3 percent of sales could not have been achieved “without substantial delay, in the absence of recent academic research.” Thus some 97 percent of commercially useful industrial technological development is, in practice, generated by in-house R&D. Academic science is of relatively small economic importance, and by funding it in public universities, governments are largely subsidizing predatory foreign companies.
Scientists may love government money, and politicians may love the power its expenditure confers upon them, but society is impoverished by the transaction.