Given the success of Operation Warp Speed in driving vaccine development, some commentators have called for Warp Speed equivalents for clean energy — including batteries, geothermal power and nuclear microreactors. Before agreeing to any such plan, however, it’s worth asking what enabled Operation Warp Speed to deliver quality vaccines so fast.

The program commits the government to purchasing a large number of vaccines in advance (it also gave many of the companies, though not Pfizer, R&D money). The total cost of the program is about $18 billion. That is hardly cheap, but neither is it a budget buster. And it pales when compared to the short-run benefits of stemming the pandemic.

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