Friday, September 30, 2011

Obama’s Commerce Secretary: We Can’t Afford Not To Subsidize Green Energy

Given the millions we’re spending per job “kept or created” most reasonable people believe, rightly, that we can’t afford any more of that kind of spending.

But according to President Obama’s commerce secretary, we can’t afford not to spend that money:

( – Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said that in a global race for green technology, the United States “can’t afford” not to spend taxpayer money on such projects, and that the price of that spending is an occasional failure. One of those failures was a $535-million federal loan guarantee to the Solyndra company that makes solar panels but which recently filed for bankruptcy.

“The U.S. can’t afford to not be a major winner in this race,” Blank said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “That necessarily means that there’s going to be some capital investment by the U.S. government. But it is new technology and that means that there is sometimes risks.”

Blank said that because green technology can sometimes be untested, the risk of failure will always be there when government subsidizes green companies.

“Make no mistake, that when you’re in a new innovation race of the sort that we are with every other advanced country in the world you are always out there on the cutting edge,” she said, “and that involves both big returns but sometimes involves some risks [of failure] as well.”

But why should the taxpayers be subjected to that risk? Why should the government get to play investment games with our tax dollars?

The false assumption here from Blank is that these sort of investments wouldn’t happen if the government didn’t make them. Which in the case of Solyndra is true as most private sector investors, unlike the government, are smart enough to avoid bad investments like that one.

But here’s reality: Reliable, practical, cost-effective energy initiatives will get investment because those sort of investments will work. Most green energy initiatives are unworkable. They’re expensive, unreliable and often have other problems too. That’s why private investors don’t embrace them without the backing of the government.

If other countries want to squander the tax dollars of their citizens chasing these green energy boondoggles they’re welcome to it. Here in America we ought to trust the free flow of capital in a free market to guide us to our energy future.