Batteries not included
Sat April 11, 2009 11:08 pm

When I read in Friday's Statesman that Texas had lost its competition with Kentucky for an advanced battery project and the federal research funding that comes with it, I immediately wondered why the governor, who has made such a point of touting economic development, wasn't more enthusiastic in getting behind the state's bid. Could it be that this was a research project Texas A&M didn't want? Or was the stumbling block that that the state's matching support for a Department of Energy grant for the project might have to come from the Rainy Day Fund, and Perry wasn't about to raid that pot of money, the defense of which is a line in the dirt for Republicans?

Actually, I think the governor's decision to give up the fight to land the battery development project made sense, for several reasons:

1. There are a number of ongoing research projects involving batteries. The National
Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries is one among several. There will be more opportunities for bites at the apple, and more apples to bite.

2. The Alliance wanted assurances that Mark Strama's proposal moving $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to a new Sunny Day Fund (to match federal dollars) would pass. Nobody, not even the governor, can give anybody any assurances about what the Texas Legislature might do.

3. Whatever you think of the governor's economic development policies--and the manipulation of funds, brought out by the House Appropriations committee, is a rich subject for another day--it is clear that the governor's primary focus is on bringing jobs to Texas. Technology research is not necessarily employment-intensive, at least in the development phase. I'm willing to entertain the thought that the governor may have been driven by political considerations concerning the Rainy Day Fund, but I think that in the end, Texas just wasn't in position to make the deal work.

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