Pigs (the ones you send through pipelines for maintenance and inspection purposes) may not be capable of finding the sorts of cracks that led to a 5,000 barrel spill from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in March. “Smart pigs are the linchpin of the industry’s efforts to monitor pipes, but they aren’t reliable for finding all serious… Keep reading →

On Saturday October 6th, the New York Times wrote an editorial that criticized the mission, effectiveness, and budget of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), an experimental laser at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. This editorial followed an article from the prior week noting scientific challenges in the NIF’s mission and airing division among scientists about the facility’s future.

The NIF consists of 192 lasers, each of which is among the largest and most energetic in the world. It was built between 1997 and 2009 for the purposes of conducting experiments with fusion energy. Keep reading →

The U.S. innovation system has a rich history of developing transformational technologies that usher in new eras of economic growth. The ultimate success of all energy technologies – whether coal, natural gas, oil, hydropower, nuclear, solar, or wind – has depended upon a tradition of public support during their research and development stage.

Consistent R&D support allowed new technologies to move through the stages of innovation – from basic and applied research, to prototyping, demonstration, commercialization, until they are finally market competitive. This process often takes decades, so returns are uncertain and dispersed, meanwhile, costs are certain, immediate, and focused, – so the private sector underinvests in R&D. Since the private market is not designed to address these problems, there is a clear role for smart government policy. Keep reading →