NOAA vs. Accuweather: corporate welfare

From this morning’s Slashdot: … 98&tid=219

Apparently for-pay weather companies (specifically Accuweather) have lobbied Senator Rick Santorum to introduce a bill to ban the National Weather Service from ‘competing.’ The NOAA just made data available for free on the internet in XML format. Essentially, that means no more free data, and the possible elimination of the NOAA web presence all together. Nothing like being able to buy off a clueless Senator - lets hope the rest do not fall in line, as I for one, do not like to pay for my information twice."

NOAA collects all kinds of weather data. NOAA is paid for by your tax dollars (at least if you pay US taxes). Therefore, many of you pay for that weather data. But now you won’t be able to access it if this bill passes.

Of course, Accuweather will get this data for nothing. Don’t think that they will build their own space launch facilities for weather satellites.

As one poster pointed out: If I’m not allowed to see the benefits of what my tax dollars are paying for, than neither should they. That means no more access to NOAA satellites and no more help paying for Kennedy Space Center and the heavy-lift rockets they need for their geosynchronus launches.

Without my money going to NOAA, these for-pay services would still be stuck with nothing but ground-based radar, to the point where I doubt they’d even spring to pay for off-shore buoys (where’d the profit be?). And that means things like not being able to see hurricanes until it’s too late.

They shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways, but I’m sure they’ll get it anyway. Thanks, Congress!

This is corporate welfare. And there is lot of that going around these days.

In general, I am quite sympathetic to the argument that government agencies should not be spending their time and money duplicating the activities of the private market (since usually, of course, an entity with no pressure to compete will do the same thing as private actors but with less impressive results at a higher cost.) I certainly wouldn’t call it corporate welfare to instruct a government agency to focus their energies on their primary mission rather than expanding into new areas.

In this particular case, however, it doesn’t really seem like the NOAA is spending a whole lot of resources on this activity. They seem to just be taking their results and putting them up on a website for anyone to look at. If that is basically an accurate picture of what’s going on, then I think I’m probably more in DB’s camp on this one.