Reader: What is NREL's return on taxpayer dollars?

"Sun Burn," Sam Levin, September 13


Sam Levin's article on "u.N.R.E.a.L" — that being a past reference to NREL by anyone from the rank and file familiar with the National Renewable Energy Lab's internal workings — addresses this fundamental question: What is the return on U.S. taxpayer dollars and the time that has been sunk into this facility? It is a wonder that by this point in time, cars are not powered by water or, at the very least, hydrogen peroxide, and that one is unable to go to the nearest hardware store to purchase a solar panel to obtain electricity in the same manner that can be done by purchasing a gasoline-powered generator.

In principle, NREL's theoretical philosophy is not a bad one, with the ability to partner with the private sector for better cooperation in research and development of new technologies, energy-related or otherwise. The legal instrument that is used in the development of these federal government and private-sector companies is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. CRADAs are agreements between the federal government and private-sector participants to work together on a mutually beneficial project. Each partner in the CRADA applies whatever resources are agreed to, such as personnel, equipment or facilities. While participant dollars may be used to fund portions of the government's effort, the government may not use federal funds to support the private-sector participant.



Nearly twenty years ago, a petroleum-industry giant had such a CRADA with NREL to help in the research and development of additives for cleaner and more efficient fuels, along with the development for better production of alternative fuels such as ethanol — in a way, an agreement comparable to that of tobacco companies aiding in the research and development of the nicotine patch to break the habit of cigarette addiction.

Stefan Krusze


Sam Levin's article is styled as an expose, but in the end he only exposes his own lack of preparation. Levin, check out, please. That website alone offers page after page of answers to the question posed by the article: "What's the public good?"

Peter Edwards


"Get Lucky," Gretchen Kurtz,

September 13

Once Is Not Enough

Gretchen has done one thing in her reviews that I admire. She has made it clear that she visited the restaurant a number of times. Presumably all reviewers do this, yet most reviews seem to want to provide the illusion that they are reviewing a singular dining experience. Which, then, of course, leads to reader criticism that judgment shouldn't be drawn from a single experience.  I don't know why most reviews are written this way, but I appreciate how Gretchen lets us know that the review is based on a multitude of experiences.

Dan Steuer



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