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Green Companies Beg Washington for Handouts

It’s been over three years since Obama’s promise to use the power of his administration to usher in a new era of green jobs, but green energy companies don’t seem pleased with what they’ve received.  The New York Times reported Thursday that “wind and solar companies are telling Congress that they cannot be truly competitive and keep creating jobs without a few more years of government support.” Though Obama has pledged to continue his support by pushing for a new set of tax credits for renewable energy companies, the Times is pessimistic about its chances, citing an acute lack of political support for renewable energy in Washington.

This should hardly come as a surprise. The green jobs boom has been slow in coming even as brown job growth in Texas and North Dakota have allowed their states to weather the recession much better than the rest of the country.

The green jobs folks by contrast don’t seem able create products that could survive the open market. Supporters claim that this isn’t about picking winners and losers, and they are half right. So far, the green jobs subsidies have been pretty consistently picking losers.  Winners haven’t been part of the mix.

Via Meadia likes the idea of government supported basic research in the energy field as well as in others. But the evidence so far, with failed solar companies and battery makers littering the landscape, is that the green energy people weren’t ready for prime time.

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  • MW

    Oil companies still receive billions of dollars of federal subsidies, which been part of the tax code for decades. Electric utilities have state-mandated monopolies and operate in a cost-plus business model. By contrast, the tax subsidies for renewable energy producers expired at the end of 2011.

    There is no free market in energy because the government has its hand in every step of the energy value chain. Why do you think the small renewable energy generators should be the only ones to not receive government subsidies?

    If we are going to eliminate renewable energy tax breaks, we should eliminate them for ALL energy companies.

  • Gerald


    The problem with “Government Sponsored Research” is that it always comes with political strings attached, and is usually quite removed from the financial disciplines of reality. The lack of realism of government forays into “green technologies” is obvious to anyone with knowledge of how energy in the form of electricity or usuable fuels is discovered, developed and marketed to the public. There is a world of diffeence between the appealing nostrums of political and academic dreams, and the reality of the business of providing energy. The sooner the government removes itself from this essential sector of the economy and turns it over to knowledgeable people, the better off we will be. If you wish to sponsor research, transfer funds to scientific entities or as R&D tax credits to qualified entities – government should be the very last resort.

  • Randy

    Given that Obama nixed Keystone XL, when it comes to the extension of green subsidies I would recommend the Republicans tell His Majesty to drop dead.

  • John Burke

    Watch out, also, for silly statistics on “green jobs” that include sanitation truck drivers and workers at dumps, and everyone who works in the nuclear power industry, among others.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The Government Monopoly is incompetent and always will be, because if lacks the feedback that competition provides to the Free Enterprise system. Even Government supported basic research is mostly wasted on bogus research like the Global Warming fraud, or some other foolishness. Recent studies have shown that most research papers are never read by anyone, because they rarely produce anything new or of note.

  • Mark Michael

    I would second what Jacksonian Libertarian said in comment 5. Government-sponsored research is cw even among many conservatives. But the truth is, its track record is abysmal. And government-sponsored applied research is almost as bad. One of the things (among others) that happens is, government agencies tend to sponsor faddish research; the bureaucrats frequent symposiums, seminars, and get “wired in” to the old boys network pretty quickly. They’re the source of funding after all. They then sponsor what’s cw among those researchers. Often, those older established scientists have run out of useful ideas, and younger scientists don’t get funding, or feel they must propose faddish topics that are in.

    The fear of political elites is, “If we stop funding research, nothing will happen! Research will stop!” Nonsense. Think of all of the billionaires who made their money in the high tech world. They actually know something about science, technology. They’ll pick up the slack – and do a much better job than run-of-the-mill bureaucrats with BS degrees in NSF, DOD’s 3 basic research arms (AFOSR, NOSR, AOSR), the Energy Dept.’s research, EPA. Yes, those agencies do have a handful of competent scientists, but the percentage is too low to give them a consistently good track record.

    My two cents. (I worked in a DOD R&D agency for 25 years, hence my views.)

  • Kohl Haas

    Dear MW: I have been in the oil business for 60 years and worked for majors, independents, and even started a company or two. I have never known a company to get a subsidy from the Federal government although I have heard about them for all that time. Please tell me what they are and who gets them – and please do not cite some provision of the tax code that is available to business in general.

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