Part two: Self-interest first - America last

by Ginosar  

Continuation from yesterday:

Example 4: STATE GOVERNMENT - SATISFY THE BOSS, not state needs


As part of my UCLA doctorate requirement, I developed on my own time a master plan for developing commercial wind energy in California. This was the first comprehensive wind energy plan anywhere and most wind energy developments in the world are following essentially this plan. There is nothing magical about it, it is simply a logical, professional plan similar to the many plans I have developed in the considerably more complex electronic field. When I was a manager of the Wind Energy Program for the California Energy Commission (CEC) I directed our entire budget to accomplish the crucial first phase of this plan -to ascertain that wind power can be economically viable. Many people, even the US Energy Dept, wanted wind energy, but no one tried to measure its viability on a large scale before. When we finally proved over a number of years of field measurements in several locations across the state that wind energy could be a highly successful commercial power, I proposed that the electrical utilities in California would develop commercial wind farms. However, most of the staff and management disliked the utilities, and instead pushed the Legislature to give substantial financial incentives to any private company entering the field. No capabilities, minimal restraints were imposed to get such a large state support. Most of the operators were not technically qualified and the corporations they formed were organized to milk the maximum amount of profit with minimal government oversight. This resulted in large waste of state money and many failed companies. The owners made a lot of money but infrequently produced sufficient electricity to justify state support.



The result was that after the state incentives expired, wind energy nearly died in California, and a quarter century later it is still essentially insignificant, while globally, and especially in Western Europe, wind has become a significant, professionally run, clean energy supply.

If the financial support had been given to the utilities instead, which have been supervised tightly by the Public Utility Commission, the utilities could have developed efficient large wind systems. It would be economically beneficial to the utilities to generate low cost electricity and they had the capabilities to develop and run them professionally.

Many of the staff who pushed to provide this financial incentive to private companies left CEC and started their own wind energy companies. How many of them pushed for private ownership to benefit themselves I can not say, but conflict of interest can be suspected.

Conclusion: Narrow, emotional views combined with self interest essentially destroyed the potentially large amount of wind energy California could have enjoyed for many years.




This was a great disappointed to me since I assumed that most people leading social activism would be dedicated to the causes beyond self gratification, but it was not the case:


During the nuclear weapon escalation period of the 80's, I directed Target Congress, a nine year national grassroots lobbying effort to pressure swing (potential converts) congresspersons in several states to vote against nuclear weapons. Our Board included Dr. Benjamin Spock, Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, several leaders of Physicians for Social Responsibility, actor Mike Farrell, the Mayor of Sacramento and more.


We were working full time with minimal income, coordinating our effort with national peace organizations, doing our work in the background and giving them added membership and fame. I personally talked with thousands of people while organizing active branches in New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and supporting effort in other states. We worked with the leadership of Common Cause, SANE, the Freeze, and several more national organizations and I met with most national leaders of the nuclear disarmament movement, and several Congresspersons and their staff.

Across the spectrum, our exposure to the nuclear disarmament movement left a bad taste in my mouth. The individual egos, and desire for power of many leaders of that movement were very negative issues for most organizations. The smaller the individual power, the better the leaders performed. The most dedicated people were those at the bottom who did it for religious reasons or deep social belief.



I must emphasize that the problem of self interest is more pronounced at higher levels. At many organizations most people at lower levels were eager to follow sensible directions and often would go beyond the call of duty to contribute to our national wellbeing. But poor leaders frequently fail them


A friend of mine, reviewing this paper, suggested that I also discuss the fallacy of "clean coal".

He said: "I think you should add one more story:  the blatant disregard for the truth by the coal industry, proclaiming that there is such a thing as clean coal. This proclamation has been supported by members of Congress because it may create or save jobs in their districts. It just isn't true:...there is no such thing as clean coal."

I agree, it will take at least a decade to find out about the possible viability of CCS , carbon capture and storage. But I will comment about it elsewhere.



In all organizations I have worked, in most projects I participated in, the ego of many participants minimized significantly the ability to solve problems, and to achieve the desired goals.


This national self-interest sickness, as I call it, is damaging the nation and causing untold suffering since immense resources are wasted needlessly. And we do not have spare funds, our national debt is immense.

In the past this excessive self interest might not have caused as much suffering as now because the amount and magnitude of our problems have increased much faster than the opportunities and resources to solve them.


We should not tolerate this national problem but it requires a change of culture. How do you do that?

As a minimum we need to be well aware of this reality and not ignore it.



This paper was long enough, took a lot of my time, and it is beyond the scope to suggest alternatives.






No feedback yet

Form is loading...