Putting your money where their mouth is

by Don Keayes

Here on the pond it’s pretty much every organism for himself. I say himself, because there’s no such thing as political correctness when life really is all ‘frog eat frog’. But I digress … What interests me about those who claim an interest in the quality of my environment is how much of other people’s money they spend on things that make their friends rich, and how little of their own money they spend on actually cleaning up the mud.

US Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) made an excellent statement as he debated an amendment on HR 5325 (Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act):

“But that’s still not a reason for taxpayers to foot the bill.  It’s a reason for the actual research and development to be paid for by the companies that will profit from this long-promised breakthrough, and if they’re not willing to finance it with their own money, we have no business forcing our constituents to finance them with theirs.”

I love it! At a time when his country’s economy is sinking into the mire, Congressman McClintock argued that he could save nearly $1.5 billion by ending a failed federal government direct-investment program and reallocating those scarce resources toward productive ventures that maximise America’s energy potential:

If we’re serious about an “all of the above energy policy” we’ve got to stop using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers based on their political connections, and instead require every energy company to compete on its own merits as decided by the customers it attracts by offering better products at lower cost. For too long we have suffered from the conceit that politicians can make better energy investments with taxpayer money than investors can make with their own money.  It is this conceit that has produced the continuing spectacle of collapsing energy scandals epitomised by the Solyndra fiasco.

At least Solyndra was funded from a loan program in which the public has a chance to get some of its money back when these dubious schemes go bankrupt. This amendment eliminates direct spending that funds commercialisation projects for ideologically pleasing technologies and the politically-favoured firms that make them – money taxpayers have no chance of recovering after it is spent. This amendment, and the two that I will take up shortly, protect taxpayers from being forced into being venture capitalists by incompetent politicians, it gets government out of the energy business and requires all energy companies and all energy technologies to compete equally and on their own merits.

Well that seems fair. I hear on the grapevine that, just as it does here in Australia, most of the money goes to wind, solar and car subsidies. Apparently the multinational mega-corporations who bankroll the Left side of politics have convinced lawmakers that the UN’s Agenda 21 trumps common sense; it’s now necessary to nurture these new and promising technologies in which they have an interest and stop spending other people’s money on stuff that actually works. Only Congressman McClintock makes an excellent point,

But they are not new and they are not promising. Photovoltaic cells, for example, were invented by French Physicist Edmund Becquerel in 1839, and in more than 170 years of technological research and innovation and billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies, we have not yet invented a more expensive way to generate electricity. So we hide its true costs to consumers through subsidies taken from their taxes.

Moreover, as I wrote a couple of posts back, solar power is not only ridiculously expensive but far more polluting than the coal- and gas-fired power we’ve been enjoying at low cost for decades. Sadly, the amendment failed by a factor of about 2 to 1.