Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
- Russia Is Polluting Energy and Climate Politics in Western Democracies - April 15, 2019
- The ‘Green New Deal’ Is Dead. Long May It Stay Buried! - April 10, 2019
- Coloradans’ Votes Don’t Matter to State’s Democratic Leaders - April 10, 2019
Unlike most, I applaud a “do nothing” Congress, though in truth I’d prefer a Congress that “undid much.” I’d really like a do nothing, or “do only what the Constitution actually empowers and limits you to do,” President. Still power hungry politicians and special interests being what they are, I’m hardly surprised (though surprisingly continue to be disappointed) when government interventions in the market supposedly intended to help the public and consumers actually create worse problems than the problem they were meant to solve.
I bring this up because Senators Lisa Murkowski (R–AK) and Maria Cantwell (D–WA) have introduced the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. Billed as a bipartisan effort to promote energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation, as described in an insightful , the legislation is a continuation of government meddling in the energy economy.
As most laws do, the Act wastes taxpayer resources, override consumers’ preferences, subsidize politically connected business interests promoting politically preferred technologies — meaning technologies that can compete on their own in the marketplace–, and payoff special interests.
Among the sops to businesses contained in the bill are provisions to provide taxpayer financed grants for improved manufacturing efficiency and industrial processes and a rebate program for businesses purchasing electric motors and transformers. As Loris notes:
Through the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Manufacturing Office, taxpayers have already provided tens of millions of dollars to automotive and chemical companies that have huge market capitalizations and, in some cases, spend more than a billion dollars on research and development.
If manufacturers believe purchasing more efficient electric motors or transformers will help them lower costs and gain a competitive edge, companies will not need taxpayer-funded rebates to make the investments. They will make these investments (as with all efficiency investments) for one (or both) of two reasons: if they believe these energy-saving technologies are worth the risk and represent the best use of their investment dollars, or if they believe this investment will drive increased business by promoting their company’s image.
The bill also continues the government policy of throwing good money after bad on highly subsidized, but still not ready for prime time, energy sources. For instance, it provides incentives for hydroelectric production (a mature energy technology if ever there was one) and biopower and for “research demonstration projects for geothermal energy and hydrokinetic energy.”
As Loris rightly points out:
None of these activities is the role of the federal government. They are activities that do not need to involve the federal government, an entity not particularly good at picking industry winners and losers or at planning for future workforces. Not only do these spending initiatives waste money, they distort the market by dictating where investments flow, taking labor and capital away from potentially more promising endeavors.
I recommend Heartland readers to read Loris’ review of this bipartisan nightmare, and recommend to Congress that a better energy policy would be to eliminate all energy subsidies, reduce regulatory barriers to technological innovations in the marketplace, and once and for all cease its foolish, unnecessary, costly and arguably unconstitutional interventions in energy markets.