Archive for August, 2011

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A Healthy Dose of Skepticism on NY’s Pharmacy Bill

A bill waiting for Gov. Cuomo’s signature in New York would restrict insurers from mandating or incentivizing participants to use a mail-order pharmacy. The “Anti-Mandatory Mail Order Pharmacy Bill” (Assembly Bill 5502-B) is being pushed as a measure to enable consumer choice. In fact, it will raise health care costs and ultimately hurt consumers. The legislation requires that insurers allow individuals to fill a prescription at any mail-order or retail pharmacy as long as the retail pharmacy accepts a “price that is comparable to that of the mail-order pharmacy.”

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Green Scissors 2011: A Misguided Proposal for Budget and Environmental Reform

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The following post was coauthored by ITIF Clean Energy Policy Analyst Matthew Stepp and Americans for Energy Leadership President Teryn Norris.

In the aftermath of the debt ceiling crisis and as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction seeks a second budget deal, many public interest groups are working hard to ensure that even while Congress cuts wasteful spending, it preserves vital public programs and expands smart investments in the nation’s future.  In the energy and climate policy community, a broad range of groups are fighting to defend clean technology investment programs – such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) – that have taken years to establish and offer a glimmer of hope amidst a largely bleak political and policy landscape.

Other organizations are taking a different approach.  This week, two progressive groups – the environmental Friends of the Earth and consumer advocacy group Public Citizen – drew attention when they joined the libertarian Heartland Institute and deficit-hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense in releasing a spending cut plan.  In a report called “Green Scissors 2011,” the groups call for $380 billion in cuts they identify … Read the rest

Should Multinationals Have to Report Jobs in the U.S.?

An article in today’s Washington Post takes many U.S. multinationals to task for wanting on the one hand tax incentives to create jobs and on the other refusing to report their breakdown of jobs here and overseas. Indeed, while all companies in the United States are required by law to report the number of jobs they have to the U.S. government, that data is by law also protected and is only revealed in aggregate (e.g., jobs in particular industries), not by individual firm.

While it might be useful to know this data by firm, there is a very good reason why many multinational firms don’t want to report it: American politics is so broken that any company that is creating more jobs overseas than here at home is immediately branded as an anti-American, selfish corporation that puts profits ahead of people.  Remember John Kerry’s “Benedict Arnold corporations” from 2004?  Who wants this kind of grief for doing what your shareholders (and customers) are demanding?

The ultimate in this kind of thinking is to fall prey to the dangerous illusion that the U.S. can have a thirving economy without healthy large … Read the rest

Sic transit innovation – and the broader role of intangibles

Innovation needs to be a verb.  Unfortunately, most people think of it as a noun.  Innovation is a thing, an outcome.  As Webster’s defines it: a new idea, method or device.  But we also need to think of innovation as a process.

Case in point is the recent history of Motorola.  As everyone now recognizes, the proposed takeover of Motorola Mobility by Google is based on access to the Motorola patent portfolio.  The acquisition has little to do with Motorola’s hardware technology.  In fact, as a story in today’s New York Times (“Motorola’s Identity Crisis”) points out, Google may have difficulties figuring out what to do with Motorola’s hardware activities.  Google already has close relations with other hardware manufacturers, such as Samsung and HTC.  Getting into the hardware business could disrupt those relationship. 
 
This is far cry from Motorola’s reputation as an innovative leader.  Motorola pioneered wireless communications, starting with the first “carphone” (a radiotelephone) in 1946 to the first commercial cellular phone (the DynaTAC 8000X) to the breakthrough flip phone StarTAC and the hot selling RAZR.  Motorola also led in process technologies in the late 1980 … Read the rest

The National Journal Experts Blog: Averting the Coming Clean Energy Cliff

The following is one of two cross-posted contributions by ITIF to the National Journal Energy and Environment Experts Blog Discussion on How Can Washington Green America’s Economy?

In a recent Foreign Affairs piece, University of California, San Diego Professor David Victor and Tana Energy Capital’s Founder Kassia Yanosek warns of a coming crisis in the clean energy industry. The culprit and one of our biggest obstacles to creating a green economy: the boom-and-bust cycle of short-sighted energy policies that prop up mature, lowest-common denominator technologies, but do little to support clean energy innovation.

To be specific, in many cases, our current policy approach is misguided and counterproductive. The reason is simple: the policies assume we have all the clean energy technologies we need. But this is far from true. Mature vehicle batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and big-box nuclear energy cost more than their fossil fuel alternatives, say nothing of often being less reliable. So the policy response has been for government to subsidize the cost difference, but at the least the current budget austerity debate shows this to be economically unsustainable as many incentives come to an end or … Read the rest

National Journal Experts Blog: Look Beyond the U.S. Market

The following is one of two cross-posted contributions from ITIF to National Journal.

 

Job growth in clean energy is a tricky subject. As Brookings found, green sector employment has increased substantially in recent years, and this trend is to be applauded. But a key economic challenge is to make sure that we aren’t just swapping green jobs for fossil energy jobs, and are actually achieving netjob growth. And an important way to do that is to look beyond the US market.

 

Think of it this way: over the past 40 years, energy expenditures have tended to account for less than 10 percent of GDP, only rising above that threshold in the crisis-riddled 1970s. There is little reason to expect energy consumption to account for an increasing share of the economy; in fact, we want the opposite to happen, through lower energy costs and ever-declining energy intensity. But if we’re using less energy, and paying less for it, then relying on domestic consumption for green job growth will have its limits.

 

So while the domestic market is important, we also need to place major emphasis … Read the rest

So I Don’t Like Patents Much; Am I Wrong?

First of all, I have nothing against the concept of intellectual property, or of paying for it, or of protecting it.  You are reading the words of 1 out of probably 2 or 3 people on the planet who has purchased a license for WinZip!  That’s dedication to IP.

My problem is that I don’t think patents do a particularly good job of protecting IP. The way patents work is: you reveal your invention to everyone and then count on a system that allocates IP protection to the wealthiest to protect your disclosure.  How could such a system help the up-and-comer?

(This is of course a fashionable view where I come from: Silicon Valley.  Just like everyone there is a “healing power of greed” type of ur-liberatrian, everyone there believes that patents are a way to stifle innovation, not protect it.  But just because it’s fashionable doesn’t mean it’s wrong.)

The current system helps the rich at the expense of the poor because the main muscle behind the protection system is litigation, a pay-to-play game that coddles either big players with big legal staffs and big legal budgets or else … Read the rest

Slave Tools and the Consumerization of IT

There is much wonderment in the IT industry about the “consumerization of IT”, by which the pundits mean “invasion of the enterprise IT area by applications, devices, and approaches taken from consumer IT”.  A cavalcade of “cool” and “fun” technology is storming the enterprise.

It’s not hard to understand the dynamic.  In the pre-Civil War South, slaves were given only heavy, rude tools to work with, even slaves whose work was in factories and craft ateliers.  The reason?  Slaves would break any tools they could, as a form of rebellion and a way to avoid yet another day of slavery.  Only the heaviest and most break-proof of tools could survive, even if they weren’t very good tools.

It’s the same way with the enterprise IT of years past: rude, clunky software, heavy ponderous devices, ugly screen after ugly screen.  It’s as if the management of the modern enterprise were afraid that the employees would break the software if they gave them anything decent.

Well, the decent stuff is flooding in everywhere now.  And that’s why employees like consumer IT.

Thoughts?… Read the rest

Measuring American Broadband

The FCC released an important new report Tuesday, Measuring Broadband America, which shows how actual broadband speeds compare to advertising claims. You can read the report and download the data the FCC collected here. The report is the result of a year of work by the FCC, its contractor Sam Knows, and a diverse group of people from the FCC, industry, universities, and public interest advocacy. The report follows a year after a quick snapshot of broadband speeds conducted during the development of the National Broadband Plan that used a different (and inferior) methodology. This report is significant because it’s both comprehensive and rigorous, as I said at the release event at Best Buy in Washington on Tuesday.

It’s also significant because the methodology was hammered out by the stakeholder group and the raw data is public, including the source code for the measurement devices. The system was developed in public, the data is public, and the code is public. There can’t be any legitimate doubt as the accuracy and reliability of the data, certainly not by people in Washington who were free to work with the … Read the rest

Australia’s New Energy Regime

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Below figures will use Australian dollars unless otherwise noted.

As followers of the international climate and energy scene will know, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard last month unveiled a major climate change package attempting to reduce carbon emissions and spurring clean energy development. The full plan and a summary are here. It’s a lot to chew on, with a lot of moving parts, and though it is not yet law, passage seems assured later this year. Briefly, the centerpiece of the package is a $23 ($25 USD) per ton carbon price on the country’s 500 largest polluters. The price will rise by 2.5% each year, estimated to generate over $27 billion by 2015, after which it will be replaced by a carbon trading scheme. More than half of the tax revenues ($15 billion) will be used to assist consumers with higher energy costs. Most of the remaining revenue will go to adjustment and efficiency assistance for energy-intense industries like metals, minerals and chemicals, and additional assistance packages will specifically target the domestic coal and steel industries.

The plan will also invest $13.2 billion over the next decade in clean … Read the rest