We’ve already had a lot of energy talk on Ricochet this week, but this nugget was too good not to pass along. From the Washington Post:
The U.S. government last year announced a $10 million award, dubbed the “L Prize,” for any manufacturer that could create a “green” but affordable light bulb.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the prize would spur industry to offer the costly bulbs, known as LEDs, at prices “affordable for American families.” There was also a “Buy America” component. Portions of the bulb would have to be made in the United States.
Now the winning bulb is on the market.
The price is $50.
Wait, what? The $50 bulb was the winner? What lost? A bulb powered by the hoofbeats of unicorns?
Newt Gingrich has been big on this idea of the federal government using prizes to spur innovation for several years (he took the inspiration largely from the X Prize Foundation here in the Los Angeles area). I’m generally sympathetic insofar as they reward outcomes instead of process (in stark contrast to a lot of government research funding). That being said, there’s one perhaps insuperable difficulty, as this instance proves: there’s still a government bureaucrat picking a winner at the end of the process.