Planet Gore

Vegas v. Detroit: A Tale of Two Trade Shows

Detroit — It is the mantra at this year’s Detroit International Auto Show that government  is necessary to develop the next generation of automotive technology. Without federal intervention, the U.S. would “lose the race to produce 21st century vehicle technologies,” reads a press release trumpeting federal green-tech grants from Michigan senator Stabenow and congressman Gary Peters.
“We made the investments; we see the consequences of it,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she surveyed automakers’ electric and hybrid concepts that are the byproduct of $25 billion in Energy Deptartment loans (and anticipated strict new mpg rules). Pelosi came to Detroit to see firsthand the technology that will “create the jobs of the future and ensure our national competitiveness. We look forward to seeing these cars in showrooms before the year is over.”
But with costly hybrids less than three percent of the market, industry analysts express doubt as to whether consumers will buy Washington’s central-planning revolution.
Contrast Detroit with Las Vegas’s International Consumer Electronic Show just a week prior, which demonstrated a wave of new digital technology craved by consumers — none of it the result of government intervention.
“A cascade of e-readers will hit the market this year, taking the devices far beyond gray-scale screens with features like touch navigation and video chatting — and probably lowering prices, too,” wrote AP tech writer Rachel Metz.
E-readers are only the latest digital device boomlet created by the wireless revolution — a technology that has remade telecom and built a multi-billion-dollar national infrastructure. And it sprouted without a dime of federal assistance, much less regulatory force.
Following in the wake of the mobile-phone and PDA revolutions, the market for e-readers is exploding, selling 2.2 million units in 2009 — nearly four times as many as last year, with expectations to more than double again this year.
Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook lead a parade of e-readers of all sizes and capabilities from Sony, Samsung, Interead, EnTourage Systems, Skiff — and soon, Apple. None of these companies have received loans from the Energy Department to retool for the future. None of them have received grants from Congress “to produce 21st century technologies.”
“The great thing about competition,” said an electronic industry spokesman, “is it inspires innovation among the manufacturers.”
Capitalism — what a concept.

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