Green Cronyism

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.

Now we will see the ultimate test:

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."

  • Ted Rado

    I question whether the push into alternative energy started with good intentions. Any competent engineer can show after a couple of days' study that they are all nonsense. If I can easily figure this out, so can everyone else.

    I believe what happened is that the enviroloonies started the thing, the USG (idiots) bought it, and greedy R&D people then jumped on board to grab the USG handouts. What has happened since would make good comedy if it wasn't bankrupting us. I am still waiting for a USG technical program that is not a complete farce.

  • IGotBupkis, Unicorn Fart Entrepreneur

    I've noted this link before, but, as Ted says, the potential of Solar Energy is flat out ludicrously overstated:

    Solar Power: Flat-Out Wrong For All Time

  • http://harqueb.us Mike S

    "less than half of what the production costs would be in a comparable free-market economy"

    If it's such a free-market economy, why is it so darn expensive to produce things here?

  • Roark

    I agree with the Coyote. I am thrilled when I can get cheap products made by Chinks making about $100 a month.

  • DrTorch

    Dumping cheap energy into the US would be great for jobs, and the environment (except for disposing of them).

    Who could possibly be opposed to this?

    Maybe the Chinese are trying to spur on their investment in US securities. Given tools, the US will innovate. Consider it a compliment.

  • epobirs

    If we were serious about solar power, we'd be making our investments in the space launch industry. The only place you're going to have enough room for the surface area needed to gather sufficient power is outer space. You know, that place where the sun never goes down and weather has a whole different meaning. We've known this for decades.