The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The government should favor electric cars over fracking

Flames light up the landscape at a fracking operation near Tilden, Tex., in 2016.
Flames light up the landscape at a fracking operation near Tilden, Tex., in 2016. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Regarding Charles Lane’s March 8 op-ed, “A crude awakening”:

Left out of the equation for comparing a technology underlying electric cars and fracking technology is that the industry for exploiting electric-car technology is inherently job-intensive while the industry for exploiting fracking is not. 

Much of the wealth created by an electric-car industry will be shared by the workers required to make the cars; most of the wealth created by fracking is in the increased value of the gas and oil fields made available by fracking, fields owned by the investor class. It is hard to imagine a technology development that is more attractive to free-market capitalists than fracking, at least for the short term. 

Mr. Lane referenced the damage to the environment that fracking technology will cause. His attack on “wasteful subsidies to government-selected producers such as Tesla” is to be regretted. Dean Kamen, another of America’s most innovative technology developers, has observed that there has been a change in the most critical factor for determining which technologies are developed. A few decades ago, the critical factor was the potential of encountering a “technology stopper.” Now, with advances in scientific knowledge and computational and instrumentation capabilities, the very idea of a technology stopper is “old-fashioned.” Virtually any imagined technology can be developed.

Today, the critical factor is the competition for the resources necessary to accomplish the developing. Governments can and ought to claim a role in identifying and supporting technologies that create wealth that can shared by the workers needed to exploit the technologies.

John McCoy, Washington