Thursday, October 18, 2012

36 more reasons why industrial policy is a bad idea

Heritage has done us all a favor by compiling a list of 36 "green energy" companies that have received federal support and have either gone bankrupt or are laying off workers and headed for bankruptcy. Even with millions and billions of federal help, these companies could not compete in the real world, because green energy is still way too expensive to compete with existing forms of energy, and politicians are foolish if they think that federal largesse is the only way to change this reality. (I won't even get into the fact that most of these same companies were big contributors to Obama's campaign, since crony capitalism and corruption are to be expected whenever politicians—of whatever stripe—shower taxpayer money on favored industries.) Throwing money down the "green" drain just takes away money from more promising technologies and more promising ways to improve our lives through gains in efficiency and productivity. When someone finally does come up with a "green" energy technology that really makes economic sense, the world's capital markets will be there, ready and willing to provide all the funds necessary.

See the list here.

HT: Instapundit, my choice for MVB (most valuable blog)


randy said...

Throwing away money like that is... disgusting. On the other hand, I am convinced there is a place for federal industrial policy related to energy - as a national security issue. The world changing technologies within our grasp are nuclear and natural gas. The "market" works to serve the existing infrastructure, which is primarily oil for gasoline, and providing fuel for whatever power plants exist now. To change the model requires government to signal to the market that it will support (with direct financial support, tax policy, and easing of regulations) new nuclear plants, and new natural gas fueling stations, and new transmission lines for the wind production that actually makes sense. The government should fund technologies like ways to recycle nuclear waste, and electric transmission lines - things that may be out of the reach for market participants to do.

The benefits of converting to using just North American energy are so world changing - I'm sickened that we don't have the leadership to make it happen.

McKibbinUSA said...

I strongly prefer to invest in companies that pay dividends -- I could care less about "green" -- I am looking for companies where the CEO stands up in front of the shareholders and slams his fist down on the podium and forcely announces that dividends will be going up or he will kill himself onstage at the next shareholder meeting -- the kinds of companies that Scott is describing here do not meet that criteria -- management needs to keep front of mind that their job is to work themselves to death to make money for shareholders...

Anonymous said...

I recommend Instapundit to my liberal friends so they can see what the right of center is thinking. Mostly my liberal friends read Drudge for that purpose and I tell them they are behind the times.

Scott Grannis said...

randy: The government should absolutely level the playing field by removing obstacles to nuclear power, etc. But it should not play favorites. The market is best at figuring out the most cost-effective and efficient solutions. And, there is almost nothing that is out of reach of the market. There is a virtually infinite supply of capital in the world to undertake profitable ventures, especially if they involve cheaper energy.

Benjamin Cole said...

Just remember, that the biggest, most socialized and permanent green energy is ethanol.

10 percent of your gas tank is ethanol, buy federal mandate, and corn farmers are still subsidized.

More than 800,000 barrels--barrels!--of ethanol are mandated for use in the USA every day, by federal diktat.

It is amazing to me that the right-wing rants about Obama's really stupid green programs (mostly one-shot wastes of money) then grows mute about the vastly larger ethanol program. Weill, it would amaze me except ethanol is a GOP favorite.

I won't even get started about the $1 trillion a year we spend on defense, VA and homeland security. Yes, a trillion dollars a year is the combined budgets of the VA, HS, and Defense.

When we face no military foes of any scope whatever.

This $1 trillion a year its spent due to a few punk terrorists who have managed in fact to terrorize Americans out of common sense, especially the GOP (although defense, VA, Homeland Security has largely become pork).

But let's talk about Obama's one-shot green programs.

BTW, I will probably vote for Romney, but look out for skyrocketing agency spending after he wins...

randy said...

A related story. Not all the money was lost. Al Gore get's rich from green tech. Mostly from getting paid exceedingly well to bet OTHER peoples money, both hedge fund investors and taxpayers, on green tech.

"Just before leaving public office in 2001, Gore reported assets of less than $2 million; today, his wealth is estimated at $100 million.


Gore’s investments coincided with the government’s largest investment in clean tech. A full 10 percent, estimated at $80 billion to $90 billion, of the 2009 stimulus package was devoted to clean energy.

Like thousands of other companies, those Gore invested in entered the competition for a piece of the pie. (An administration official said more than 80 percent of applicants the first year were turned away.) Several companies in Gore’s portfolio emerged as winners. Of the 11 companies he mentioned in his 2008 slide show, nine received or directly benefited from stimulus or clean energy funding."

Public Library said...

How many billions went to private companies in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? How many sub-industries has this crony capitalism created over the past 30 years? Which side is generally the biggest proponent of this largesse?

Whining about puny green subsidies is like trying to catch a minnow in the ocean. I understand it makes for great election theater. But get real. The Feds subsidies of banks and financial repression techniques are costing us hundreds of billions every year. This is a total redirection of capital in favor of one particular industry. Yet not a peep from the pundits. Your argument lacks credibility in the face of real + larger problems.

We have bigger fish to catch in today’s multi-plex world. If only we could get past the red or blue tint on our sunglasses.

djakel said...

Our political system has been completely corrupted by big spending members of both parties. Only their spending priorities differ. There are only two alternative courses that I can imagine. Either we elevate strong fiscal conservatives to the leadership in the House, Senate and White House all at once and drastically reduce spending to 20% of GDP almost immediately, then to 16% or less over 10 years or we continue on the present path until we suffer a catastrophic collapse.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.