What the US elections mean for alternative energy, Google, Facebook and Tech
The people in the US have spoken and sent a rather alarming message to the US government and that message is "you are on the wrong track."
It is clear that economics and jobs led the peaceful revolt and that people want their government to be more effective, more frugal, and to actually accomplish the things it promises to accomplish.
This last is important because just as the current administration was almost tossed out the underlying message that politicians from both parties aren’t in favor serves as a cautionary tale for everyone.
But with both of the ex-Technology CEOs losing in California and Obama aggressive on alternative energy there is also an additional cautionary tale here with regard to technology as well.
However, it doesn’t need to be a problem, because technology could be used to accomplish the jobs and economic goals the changed administration wants and both sides could benefit from the result.
Let’s explore this idea.
This is a huge potential issue for the technology market which has invested heavily in it. Back when Ronald Reagan became President in the 1980s he killed the alternative energy programs that his predecessor Jimmy Carter had championed.
He also ran on a similar platform of economic focus called Reagonomics and won a second term. Of course, Reagan is likely the most well regarded US President of his era.
However, back in the 1980s alternative energy really wasn’t economical at all, the oil shortage was largely artificial and there were rew concerns about global warming.
In addition, in California, an initiative to turn back alternative energy projects failed and alternative energy is vastly more capable and economical than it was three decades ago. Unfortunately, it isn’t really where it needs to be either and one of the cars that won the X-Prize ran on ethanol and it wasn’t hybrid either.
This suggests that with a bottom line focused on government programs, those that will get funding are companies which can pay for themselves in a reasonable amount of time - with reasonable being measured more in months than decades. As such, consumer incentive programs are likely at high risk of not being renewed or being terminated.
On the other hand, tax cuts for companies creating jobs in the US are likely and alternative energy companies are not only potential large employers - but this is also a technology that has high export potential which benefits the trade deficit and will likely be high on the government’s priority list.
And, with California as an example, moving off of oil dependency remains both popular and a critical part of fixing both the problems with terrorists and the trade deficit.
In the end the Democratic Party remains in marginal control and interest in alternative energy remains high but programs that do the best will be those that provide the fastest return on investment in terms of cost savings, job creation, and reducing the trade deficit.
There is little doubt that the Conservative Party in the US won the election. This party traditionally is strong on protecting secrets and while it often does trade off personal privacy for security it only does so in the context of government, and not third party access.
The party also tends to focus tightly on law and order and Google has created an image of a firm that is relatively cavalier when it comes to legal behavior. This suggests that Google’s problems getting business out of the US Government, or any State, will increasingly difficult despite arguing cost savings which you would expect would otherwise rule the day.
Politicians are afraid of risk at the moment and Google’s attitudes with regard to privacy likely scare politicians on both sides. But bigger than this is the impression that Google is aggressively avoiding the taxes it otherwise would be paying and that would put the company in the problem to be fixed category.
Unless they can rectify this, no amount of litigation is likely to get them the business or influence they otherwise might command. In addition, they could easily be positioned as a company that kills or outsources jobs, creates foreign relations problems, or is somehow rebelling against government - none of which will play well.
Social Networks: Particularly Facebook
Social Networks, particularly Facebook, seemed to play a definitive roll in the rise of the Tea Party and seemed to have an even greater impact than it did when President Obama took office. This may be a pivotal moment for Facebook in particular, which has also had image problems with regard to privacy. They are on the edge of epic greatness or catastrophic failure depending on how they behave over the next several years.
This service has created the impression that it can change the outcome of elections but that will both excite and scare the hell out of those in office and some very powerful folks are likely to see it more as a threat than an opportunity; particularly those who simply don’t understand how Social networks work and think they should be more tightly regulated.
Facebook will likely need to increase or create lobbying efforts in the US Capital to ensure it doesn’t get buried under regulatory oversight. In short, Facebook and the concept of Social Networking likely both scared and thrilled a number of politicians that can be a really good, or catastrophically bad thing - depending on what happens next.
In other words, they have the attention of Government which could be very powerful unless they are seen as a problem that needs to be aggressively fixed or regulated.
Wrapping Up: Some Risks and Opportunities for Tech
One of the biggest messages was in Carly Fiorina’s narrow defeat in California and Meg Whitman’s collapse in the same State. Both candidates, who otherwise should have been favored to win in a conservative landslide, lost because of how they didn’t take care of their people.
For Fiorina, it was the constant pounding on her financially benefiting from massive layoffs at HP and for Whitman it was her firing her long term housekeeper for being an illegal alien.
Poor treatment of employees clearly has strong repercussions in this job oriented dual party administration and that should mean better job security for those in pretty much any industry but particularly for tech. Shifting jobs overseas or eliminating them will probably not play well for the foreseeable future.
Finally, technology has a significant opportunity because it can be used to provide better metrics, is a huge export opportunity which addresses trade balance, and, particularly with regard to Social Networking, is having an increasing impact on government.
The coming years could be huge for the technology market, but whether that is good or bad, is still in play.