February 19, 2003

DICK GEPHARDT, SPACE VISIONARY: Just watched Dick Gephardt's campaign announcement, via C-SPAN. Good, solid speech -- but why the Tina Turner shlock-rock afterward? -- but with one passing comment worth blogging.

Gephardt said the usual stuff about dependence on foreign oil, yadda yadda, and then endorsed hydrogen cars. Hydrogen cars are fine but -- as many pointed out after Bush endorsed them -- the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. To make it, you need electricity, which either comes from burning oil (D'oh!) or from some other source, like nuclear plants.

Or it can come from space. Gephardt, in fact, called for an "Apollo program for energy independence." That may have been a throwaway line (there's nothing beyond it on his website), but space enthusiasts have been pushing solar power satellites, as a way of getting clean solar energy (it's beamed to earth via microwave) that can be used to support a hydrogen-fuel economy, for years. (You can read more on the subject here, here, and here.)

Could this be what Gephardt had in mind? If so, he didn't give any more hints. But if it's not what he had in mind, then someone needs to ask him where the electricity for all that hydrogen is going to come from.

If it is what he had in mind, it's a pretty good idea. In particular, a project like this -- done right, anyway -- would jump-start launcher development. The problem, as Rand Simberg has pointed out repeatedly, is that we've got a double-bind: launch systems need lots of launches to be economical, and to move up the learning and reliability curves. But when launches aren't economical and reliable, it's hard to come up with enough payloads.

Were Gephardt's words part of a very thoughtful plan, or just meaningless pap? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Gephardt looks even better now -- it's switched to Dennis Kucinich, who by all appearances should be Karl Rove's favorite Democratic candidate. Jeez. "Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction! Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction! Poor health care is a weapon of mass destruction! Peace will protect the rights of workers!" And he's delivering it in a half-shouting singsong that doesn't go over very well.

Of course, Kucinich's space platform -- which involves a ban on "orbital mind-control weapons" -- isn't very impressive, either.

UPDATE: A reader suggests that I direct Kucinich to this page. Uh, okay, but I'm pretty sure he's not an InstaPundit reader. I have, however, emailed Gephardt's campaign to ask about his proposal.