Should the United States Government be Permitted to Play the Role of a Venture Capitalist?

  

The United States government has made some very risky investments in areas such as green energy and electric vehicles.  As time as shown, the government’s ability to pick winners and losers has cost the United States taxpayers billions of dollars.

Green Energy, also known as renewable or sustainable energy, is energy that comes from resources which are continually replenished such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.  According to Wikipedia, About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewable sources, with 10% of all energy from traditional biomass, mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from hydroelectricity.

 

These investments have instead provided a string of bankruptcies: Solyndra ($528 million in federal loans), Abound Solar ($400 million), A123 Systems ($279 million) and Fisker Automotive ($529 million), to name the most prominent examples.

Let’s begin with Solyndra, originally founded by Chris Gronet as Gronet Technologies in May of 2005.  The Company changed its name eight (8) months later to Solyndra and quietly began developing a solar module consisting of one glass tube nested inside of another.  Wrapped around the inner tube were 150 solar cells made from copper, indium, gallium and diselenide, rather than silicon.

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Technology Post – Using Video to Fix Broken Educational Systems

If you’ve never heard of the Khan Academy in Mountain View, California you may want to watch the above video.  Salman Khan is a 36 year old entrepreneur who holds multiple degrees from MIT and Harvard.  The mission of his non profit company is to develop a “free world class education for anyone anywhere” through the use of short educational videos combined with interactive quizzes and tools for teachers to chart student progress.

According to a report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, global spending on education is $3.9 trillion, or 5.6% of planetary GDP. America spends the most–about $1.3 trillion a year–yet the U.S. ranks 25th out of the 34 OECD countries in mathematics, 17th in science and 14th in reading.

The economic prosperity in the United States masks an underlying problem of incompetency in basic math and science.   Approximately one fifth of American 15-year-olds do not have basic competence in science; 23% can’t use math in daily life. The Khan Academy is seeking to reverse this problem through the development and distribution of innovative educational videos.  In fact, Khan Academy videos have been viewed more than 200 million times.

We applaud the efforts of the Khan Academy and look forward to reporting in the future on improvements in U.S. student rankings against other OEDC countries. Learning on the Khan Academy’s website is 100% free so we would encourage everyone reading this blog article to visit the site and register.  The site provides educational lessons for the following subjects:

  • Math – Arithmetic and Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Trigoomitry, Probability, Statistics, Precalculus, Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Applied Math, Brain Teasers and Vi Hart
  • Science - Biology, Chemistry, Cosmology and Astronomy, Healthcare and Medicine, Organic Chemistry, Physics, LeBron Asks, MIT +K12 and Projects
  • Computer Science - Drawing, Programming Basics, Animation and User Interaction
  • Finance & Economics – Core Finance, Valuation and Investing, Venture Capital and Capital Markets, Credit Crisis, Paulson Bailout, Geithner Plan, Current Economics, Banking and Money, Currency, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Greek Debt Crisis
  • Humanities - History, American Civics and Art History
  • Test Preparation – SAT Math, GMAT, CAHSEE, California Standards Test, Competition Math, IIT JEE and Singapore Math