Like a solar cell, on a perpetually gloomy day, so-called “alternative technologies” have consistently failed to deliver on their energy promise. What nobody seems to realize is that it is the cloud of the federal government that has been blocking out the sun.
Federal support for alternative energy technologies is not new. Beginning with President Ford’s 1975 energy act, Washington has pushed for energy independence through innovations in new technologies. The implication behind Washington’s interventionist motives was that there was some market failure preventing the search and commercialization of novel energy technologies. So the federal government donned its cape, put on its tights, and ran to the rescue.
Sadly, our government has no real superpowers, so it did what it always does – throws vast amounts of taxpayer money at the problem. Time and again, Washington engaged in highly publicized, heavily funded, and extremely dubious forays into the development of some technology. And time and again they failed.
Take the story of ethanol, one of the government’s biggest crusades, and also one of its biggest flops. Currently the federal government mandates the use of nearly 14 billion gallons of renewable fuels, imposes a stiff tariff on the importation of foreign ethanol to protect against competition, and then provides billion in subsidies to boot! So the government has not only artificially created a market, but does its best to make it “profitable,” and still subsidizes it with refundable tax credits. All the while, taxpayers are forced to pay the bill in higher taxes and fuel costs.
Fortunately, some members of Congress are doing their best to end the taxpayer-funded lifelines to bad alternative energy investments. Representative Doug Lamborn (D-CO), who has won NTU’s Taxpayers Friend Award for four straight years, is leading the charge. Recently, Rep. Lamborn sent a letter to the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, urging them to cut spending on the Department of Energy’s “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” programs.
“If it is truly the case that this research is revolutionary investors should be eager to invest in this technology; if it is so promising, there should be no end of private capital competing to enlist researchers and secure a piece of this new energy cornucopia.”
Rep. Lamborn should be praised, not only for his staunch defense of taxpayers’ wallets, but for his brave refusal to bend to special interests. Despite pushback from his own district, Rep. Lamborn realizes the risk that all taxpayers will face if our deficit continues to spiral out of control. “In these tight budgetary times,” says Lamborn, “taxpayers should not be subsidizing work that should be done with private investment dollars. I believe the free markets are better suited to make 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) an enormous disservice. To achieve the biggest gains, free markets must be allowed to channel resources toward technologies based on their promise of cleaner, cheaper fuels, not on political pressure. Not only will this spur the innovations we’ve long been searching for, but it will ensure that taxpayers are able to reap the rewards, without bearing the cost of questionable investment.
NTU thanks Representative Lamborn and the other House members who continue to stick up for the American taxpayer. They’re consistent defense of free market solutions provides hope that the dark cloud of government will eventually give way to the sunlight of innovation.