Energy Policy Thoughts

Our industry makes parts for all different types of energy and transportation. AGMA, our national trade association, was formed, in part, because the growing automotive field needed standardization. Through the past century we have had booms and busts in every sector, but somehow things work themselves out.

It is important to remember that we have customers in many sectors. It is not possible to wish ill towards one sector without it costing the industry a net amount of sales. Take the boom/bust cycle in wind energy. Did you know that in 1920 our country got a full 20 percent of its power from the wind? Much of that power was used to pump water, but a town near Chicago, Batavia, was the world leader in wind turbine generators. Millions of Jacobs Windchargers were sold around the world to charge lead acid batteries that could light a house or a barn or power a radio. They were so reliable that the 1970s back-to-nature movement pulled Windchargers from rural scrap yards and returned them to service.

So why were those turbines in the scrap yard? Because when rural electrification became a national priority, farmers were told they had to take them down if they wanted a connection to the grid. I buy the technical argument that you don’t want to mix 120 volts AC with 6 volts DC, but essentially government policy killed a world-leading technology and it cost people their jobs in Batavia.

You can argue that it created more jobs than it cost, but if you were a blade carver that was hardly a consolation. In the same way were many different types of propulsion in cars and trucks in 1916. We let the market decide on what was best; for the longest time that has been the gasoline-fueled Otto cycle piston engine. Along the way our sloppy engineering of these motors nearly choked us in smog. It might not have been severe in your town but it was life threatening on some days in some locations.

Should the marketplace alone be able to damage some peoples’ health and livelihood? The adoption of air and water quality rules has made the United States a leader in these important fields. And they created jobs.

There are no simple answers to complex questions. What helps one group may adversely impact another group. Just something to keep in mind when discussing policy changes in the months ahead.

About Charles D. Schultz 640 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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