Now, with biofuels you do have to build an infrastructure whereas with electrification we do have electric plugs already.
What lessons have been learned during the Obama administration about how the government should fund new energy companies like these, or companies of any type?
The sweet spot at DoE has been on the front side, research and development. Then, as you go to helping deployment and how to finance deployment, there is an important role for government. At least other countries feel that it is a very important role, to help deployment by funding first-of-their-kind plants. You can help fund deployment through whatever means: finance, feed-in tariffs, clean energy standards or renewable portfolio standards. It's a combination of things to make a market draw.
A market draw helps you walk down the learning curve. The more you produce, the better you get at it. You need the market draw in addition to research. If you don't have it, and people don't think there will be a market, it will be a chicken-and-egg problem. It's a combination of research and industry saying, "Yes, I can make a business of this."
In areas of rapidly moving technology, you have to be increasingly careful when assisting in deployment. Some things happened so rapidly that nobody anticipated them. For example, the price of photovoltaics dropped 80 percent in one year, 40 percent in another year. Those prices have now stabilized.
It's very important that the U.S. remain a player in this technology [photovoltaics]. We invented a lot of this stuff, from silicon to cadmium telluride [solar cells], you name it. We still have the capability of outcompeting. Other countries may give more assistance, look at Germany and it's high-tech auto industry. But our auto manufacturing is coming back strong. They are building very high quality cars now that they believe they can market worldwide but build in the U.S.
Things happen. I really didn't learn that here, I knew full well coming in that unexpected things can happen. [Technology] leads can be lost. It's a very competitive world out there. For example, we invented the airplane, lost the lead and then came back.
We are still highly competitive in all areas of high-tech manufacturing, including most new energy. We need to choose our battles, but a lot of them we can—and should—win.