I am willing to believe that the initial push into alternative energy subsidies was undertaken with good, honest (though misguided) intentions to change the US energy mix. But once such a program is begun, it inevitably gets turned into cronyism.
The best example is probably corn ethanol. A combination of subsidies and mandates have pushed an enormous proportion of our food supply into gas tanks, for little or even negative environmental effect. Environmentalists and the Left turned against it, but for a few large corporations like ADM, the subsidies have become life and death, and they do anything they have to to get Congress to maintain them.
The best evidence that corn ethanol shifted from a green program to pure cronyism was the imposition of large import tariffs. The only possible purpose of these tariffs was to enrich farmers and a few manufacturers. After all, if one really cared any more about getting more ethanol in the fuel supply, one would welcome low cost imports.
Well, the Solyndra debacle has started to make clear that cronyism has taken over solar subsidies as well. Every day we find yet another high-ranking Obama supporter with his thumb on the scales tilting the DOE funding decision toward Solyndra.
A group of U.S. solar-panel makers Wednesday called on the federal government to punish Chinese rivals with extra duties for allegedly dumping their products on the U.S. market…
The U.S. makers are asking the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to impose a duty on panels imported from China, a market that totaled $1.6 billion in the first eight months of 2011. SolarWorld accused Chinese manufacturers of selling solar panels at less than half of what the production costs would be in a comparable free-market economy, and is asking for tariffs to make up the difference.
One could argue that this is in direct response to the Solyndra failure. Solyndra's failure has been blamed on low cost panel manufacturing in China. Again, if we care just about energy, we should be thrilled about low-cost Chinese solar panels. If the Chinese government wants to somehow subsidize our consumption of solar panels, great!
Watch this proposal. Any politician that jumps on this solar tariff bandwagon will be saying "My statements about wanting to see more solar usage is just a bluff, I only really care about subsidizing a few selected businesses."