'Cleantech' gets clocked by '60 Minutes,' and the usual suspects try to make lemonade

Article Highlights

  • Despite massive taxpayer-funded subsidies, ‘clean energy’ is a failure because it remains far too expensive to compete in the marketplace.

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  • That list is only a subset of the dear departed whose headstones litter Heaven’s Eternal Garden of Federal Clean Energy Subsidy Boondoggles Memorial Park.

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  • These subsidy programs yield only pure resource waste and excessive costs even as they represent a federal trough for special interests, one at which only white elephants feed.

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Despite massive taxpayer-funded subsidies, ‘clean energy’ is a failure because it remains far too expensive to compete in the marketplace.

Abound Solar. A123 Systems. Beacon Power. Brightsource. Compact Power. ECOtality. Ener1. Evergreen Solar. First Solar. Fisker Automotive. Nevada Geothermal. Range Fuels. Solyndra. SpectraWatt. SunPower. Vehicle Production Group. Vestas.

These names are inspiring, uplifting, and so very green. And there are many more, as that list is only a subset of the dear departed whose headstones litter Heaven’s Eternal Garden of Federal Clean Energy Subsidy Boondoggles Memorial Park. Earlier this month, 60 Minutesbroadcast a report on the unbroken string of failures endured by taxpayers under various Department of Energy subsidy programs for “clean” and “renewable” energy — adjectives curiously devoid of actual definition — a political/bureaucratic effort comprising subsidized loans, grants, price supports, tax credits, guaranteed market shares, and other such subventions, all authorized by Congress amid the deafening self-applause so characteristic of the Beltway. Thus does the federal black hole — politicians, bureaucrats, and “experts” joined at the hip — consume vast amounts of resources financed with other people’s money. This is part of an endless effort to prove that they are just as smart as real businessmen, and, of course, is on endeavors which subsidize their various constituencies.

“Cleantech” is the sanitized term for this broad array of subsidized energy technology beneficiaries: firms producing batteries, solar devices, wind power components, “efficient” autos, “alternative” electricity, “renewable” electric generating facilities, ad infinitum. Together with “clean” and “renewable,” Cleantech is a word that obscures the less-than-clean, life-or-death tug of war among interest groups competing for snout privileges at the federal “clean energy” trough. As an aside, under some conditions, particularly when the subsidies take the form of an investment tax credit, no actual “clean energy” output is needed for the subsidies to flow. The term hides also the unreported reality that there is little “clean” about “clean energy”: It has environmental advantages over conventional energy only if we ignore the adverse environmental effects of “clean energy.”

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About the Author

 

Benjamin
Zycher
  • Benjamin Zycher is the John G. Searle Chair and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on energy and environmental policy. He is also a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

    Before joining AEI, Zycher conducted a broad research program in his public policy research firm, and was an intelligence community associate of the Office of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State.  He is a former senior economist at the RAND Corporation, a former adjunct professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and at the California State University Channel Islands, and is a former senior economist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.  He served as a senior staff economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisers, with responsibility for energy and environmental policy issues.

    Zycher has a doctorate in economics from UCLA, a Master in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from UCLA.

  • Email: benjamin.zycher@aei.org
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    Name: Regan Kuchan
    Phone: 202.862.5903
    Email: regan.kuchan@aei.org

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