Like a solar cell, on a perpetually gloomy day, so-called“alternative technologies” have consistently failed to deliver on their energypromise. What nobody seems to realize is that it is the cloud of the federalgovernment that has been blocking out the sun.
Federal support for alternative energy technologies is notnew. Beginning with President Ford’s 1975 energy act, Washington has pushed forenergy independence through innovations in new technologies. The implicationbehind Washington’s interventionist motives was that there was some marketfailure preventing the search and commercialization of novel energytechnologies. So the federal government donned its cape, put on its tights, andran to the rescue.
Sadly, our government has no real superpowers, so it didwhat it always does – throws vast amounts of taxpayer money at the problem.Time and again, Washington engaged in highly publicized, heavily funded, andextremely dubious forays into the development of some technology. And time andagain they failed.
Take the story of ethanol, one of the government’s biggestcrusades, and also one of its biggest flops. Currently the federal governmentmandates the use of nearly 14 billion gallonsof renewable fuels, imposes a stiff tariff on the importation of foreignethanol to protect against competition, and then provides billion in subsidiesto boot! So the government has not only artificially created a market, but doesits best to make it “profitable,” and still subsidizes it with refundable taxcredits. All the while, taxpayers are forced to pay the bill in higher taxesand fuel costs.
Fortunately, some members of Congress are doing their bestto end the taxpayer-funded lifelines to bad alternative energy investments. RepresentativeDoug Lamborn (D-CO), who has won NTU’s Taxpayers Friend Award for fourstraight years, is leading the charge. Recently, Rep. Lamborn sent a letterto the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, urging them to cutspending on the Department of Energy’s “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy”programs.
“If it is truly the case that this researchis revolutionary investors should be eager to invest in this technology; if itis so promising, there should be no end of private capital competing to enlistresearchers and secure a piece of this new energy cornucopia.”
Rep. Lamborn should be praised, not only for his staunchdefense of taxpayers’ wallets, but for his brave refusal to bend to specialinterests. Despite pushback from his own district, Rep. Lamborn realizes therisk that all taxpayers will face if our deficit continues to spiral out ofcontrol. “In these tight budgetary times,” saysLamborn, “taxpayers should not be subsidizing work that should be done withprivate investment dollars. I believe the free markets are better suited tomake business decisions than the federal government.”
By picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace,often well before they have been technologically or economically proven,Washington is doing renewable technologies (not to mention taxpayers) anenormous disservice. To achieve the biggest gains, free markets must be allowedto channel resources toward technologies based on their promise of cleaner,cheaper fuels, not on political pressure. Not only will this spur theinnovations we’ve long been searching for, but it will ensure that taxpayersare able to reap the rewards, withoutbearing the cost of questionable investment.
NTU thanks Representative Lamborn and the other Housemembers who continue to stick up for the American taxpayer. They’re consistentdefense of free market solutions provides hope that the dark cloud ofgovernment will eventually give way to the sunlight of innovation.