This graphic (from SolarPowerRocks.com, which also gives references for the numbers, which I have not checked) is pretty neat. It compares annual U.S. energy R&D expenditures with the cost of the war in Iraq (one might well question whether it is reasonable or even meaningful to compare those, but that’s not what this post is about). The graphic is neat precisely because it is so useless: it makes the point that the costs that it compares are so wildly different in magnitude that you can’t even plot them on the same graph. Of course any of us could think of ways that you could plot them on the same graph, but that would make the graphic more informative at the expense of making it useless for its intended purpose.
SolarPowerRocks.com says “These figures are in millions. The source for energy R&D expenditures is from the National Council for Science and the Environment. “
One thing worth pointing out, I guess: As Andrew and I have discussed for literally decades, this is the sort of thing that makes people say “if we can afford the war in Iraq, we can afford to spend $X on solar power research.” But that works the wrong way: we can’t afford the solar power research, because we’re spending all of that money in Iraq!