Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Long, Undistinguished, and Very Costly Graveyard of Failed Government Energy Projects

From an article in yesterday's Washington Post by energy writer Steven Mufson "Before Solyndra, A Long History of Failed Government Energy Projects":

"Solyndra, the solar-panel maker that received more than half a billion dollars in federal loans from the Obama administration only to go bankrupt this fall, isn’t the first dud for U.S. government officials trying to play venture capitalist in the energy industry. The Clinch River Breeder Reactor. The Synthetic Fuels Corporation. The hydrogen car. Clean coal. These are but a few examples spanning several decades — a graveyard of costly and failed projects.

Not a single one of these much-ballyhooed initiatives is producing or saving a drop or a watt or a whiff of energy, but they have managed to burn through far more more taxpayer money than the ill-fated Solyndra. An Energy Department report in 2008 estimated that the federal government had spent $172 billion since 1961 on basic research and the development of advanced energy technologies."

Conclusion: "Perhaps the federal government is, as former Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers put it, “a crappy VC,” or venture capitalist. Or perhaps it should stick to funding basic research. But if more recipients of Energy Department loan guarantees falter, they will become part of a long, if undistinguished, history of failure."

9 Comments:

At 11/13/2011 10:14 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Right now the burning question I have is, "will Steven Mufson have a job on Monday morning?"...

 
At 11/13/2011 11:18 AM, OpenID moneyjihad said...

Conclusion: "Or perhaps it should stick to funding basic research."

Or perhaps it should stick to its constitutionally authorized enumerated powers and fund none of it.

 
At 11/13/2011 3:27 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Add ethanol. Or perhaps ethanol is really just rural pinko-lard, and almost an anti-energy program.

 
At 11/13/2011 4:11 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Add ethanol. Or perhaps ethanol is really just rural pinko-lard, and almost an anti-energy program.

Sadly, ethanol is nothing really new. I remember reading all the papers in the early 1980s showing how much the military was wasting billions on shale development in its synthetic fuels research projects and how other subsidies were hidden throughout the budget.

I doubt that the report cited captures all of the money wasted. IF someone wants to look deeper the picture is probably a lot worse than reported.

 
At 11/13/2011 6:38 PM, Blogger Don Culo said...

We need to use the same effective cost management tools used to manage military projects. Military projects never waste money like energy projects !!!!

 
At 11/13/2011 6:45 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

If you actually read the Constitution, and the various state constitutions that precede it, and the Federalist Papers, you will learn our Founding Fathers detested and loathed standing militaries, and obviously favored citizen militias. The much-quoted Second Amendment, for example, included the right to bear arms directly in the role of serving in a citizen militia.

Forgotten today is that Congress refused to give President Washington an army until his second term, and then just 1500 men to fight Native Americans.

If we were true to our Founding Fathers, we would never have built up the permanent and horribly expensive, parasitic, ossified and coprolitic military-homeland security--VA megaplex we have today.

 
At 11/13/2011 10:33 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

We need to use the same effective cost management tools used to manage military projects. Military projects never waste money like energy projects !!!!

But isn't wasting money considered a good thing because it 'stimulates' the economy. I could have sworn that is what the NYT's Nobel winning economist keeps telling us. The big problem is not the waste but that we do not waste enough. You can help eliminate that problem by electing Obama again or piking someone like Santorum for the job.

 
At 11/13/2011 10:47 PM, Blogger randian said...

The much-quoted Second Amendment, for example, included the right to bear arms directly in the role of serving in a citizen militia.

No, the Second Amendment gave the right to bear arms, period. The militia subclause does not limit the right.

 
At 11/14/2011 12:11 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Randian--

I agree with you, but it also explicitly gives you the right, perhaps even the responsibility to serve in a citizen militia, and that militia is the primary form of defense for the nation.

A strict constructionist reading of the Constitution means you have the right to bear arms and form citizen militias.

The term "arms" is undefined, and even in the 1930s the Fed outlaws "tommy guns" or "machine guns."

One might ponder if powerful laser weapons become perfected....or that "arms" also include nerve gas canisters or bio-weapons.

 

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