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How Government Saps Our Energy

August 20, 2018 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Visiting the Solyndra solar-panel factory in Fremont,
California, in May 2010, President Barack Obama declared,
“The true engine of economic growth will always be companies
like Solyndra.”

With paternalistic
attempts at planning our lives, the government takes away a choice
that lets millions of people choose how to spend their own money to
achieve their own purposes.

Well, that didn’t work out so well. Despite $535 million
in federal loan guarantees, Solyndra declared bankruptcy 16 months
later.

The idea of “green energy” — energy from
natural, renewable sources such as sunlight, wind, and rain —
has been a bright, shining dream of environmentalists for decades.
Its viability always seems just over the horizon.

Oh, you can find plenty of headlines like “Further
Dramatic Fall in Price of Solar Energy Forecast for 2018” and
“Renewable Energy Will Be Consistently Cheaper Than Fossil
Fuels By 2020, Report Claims.” But here’s the thing:
Those headlines and reports are usually produced by interested
parties: environmentalist groups or industry associations or
government agencies. They don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Government as Energy Investor

We have decades of experience with the federal
government trying to subsidize and encourage new sources of energy.
A Department of Energy report in 2008, before the massive
expenditures of the Obama “stimulus” package, estimated
that the federal government had spent $172 billion since 1961 on
basic research and development of advanced energy technologies.
Consider some of the big-ticket items:

  • The Clinch River Breeder Reactor was an experimental nuclear
    fission power project in Tennessee that cost taxpayers $1.7 billion
    — more than $4 billion in today’s dollars —
    before being abandoned in 1983.
  • The Synthetic Fuels Corporation was created in 1980 to develop
    oil shale, tar sands, and coal gasification technologies to wean us
    off imported oil. Congress authorized $20 billion, but eventually
    it was closed in 1986 after spending “only” $2
    billion.
  • George W. Bush spent $1.2 billion on a fruitless effort to
    develop a hydrogen-powered car.
  • Presidents since Jimmy Carter have tried to develop
    “clean coal,” a method to burn domestic coal in an
    environmentally friendly way. From the Healy project in Alaska to
    the Kemper plant in Mississippi, these efforts have overspent and
    underperformed. As Steven Mufson of the Washington Post
    wrote in 2014, “The only thing the Kemper
    power plant is burning now is money.”

Indeed, Mufson wrote in an earlier article, “Not a
single one of these much-ballyhooed initiatives is producing or
saving a drop or a watt or a whiff of energy.”

The Solyndra Debacle

When President Obama took office, with the stock market crashing
and unemployment rising, his first order of business was the
American Recovery …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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