Size Matters

We hear this phrase a lot in all sorts of contexts, but I want to introduce one you possibly missed.  We all know that scientific research has long been funded by all of us through the Federal budget.  That includes the obvious “D” agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE), along with a host of national energy agencies such as NREL, LBL, etc.  The typical individual program sizes has been authorized in the millions, except of course the DOD where large budgets prevail for obvious reasons.

The energy industry has now sensed the opportunity to equivalence the energy questions in the same light as an existential threat to the planet, so why not increase the “punch bowls” out of which all the energy consultants suck from millions to billions.  You do remember the Inflation Reduction Act authorized hundreds of billions in the energy research areas, as if that was somehow going to reduce inflation.  The logic eludes me because all it in fact has done is to increase the costs of the supposedly renewable portfolios by pushing demand up for critically short constituent materials like rare earth elements and thereby drastically increase supply costs.

The good news in this country is that we, as a nation, have drastically reduced our environmental footprint and historically driven down prices for renewable sources.  Why hasn’t anyone looked at the certain results when you pour money into markets that do not scale economically any longer and drive up the devastation and human suffering in parts of the world that supply our EV and PV options?

Increases in budgets that move from millions to billions do the obvious.  Spending one HUNDRED times more than in the past always results ins shortages.  We will immediately see the need for drastically more people in these agencies and lots of luck finding qualified candidates.  So, couple this with the idea that testing is no longer fair and the DEI priorities you have a powder keg of organizational challenges.  It took decades of hard work to build the consulting and research capabilities … decades.  Now the idealistic politicians believe you can increase spending by two factors of ten and have productive environments and the quality controls to be sure of results.

Size matters.  There is such a thing as sustainable growth.  Every business school trains their execs that you can “strip out the gears” of any organization with growth.  All of the biggest failures in business are caused by unstainable growth.  Anyone who tries to attain more than 20-30% per year of growth knows you strip gears.

How many years does it take to grow a $10 million organization to a billion?  It takes at least 14 years to do that.  That means it would be the year 2037 to grow a business like that.  Have you heard anyone talk about whether they can do something like this?  And if not, why not?

Follow the money.  Ask better questions.


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