Monday, February 09, 2009

Hurry Up, Please. It's Time.

One of the unfortunate effects of the economic meltdown is that money for research and development of alternative energy has dried up at the worst possible time. Banks aren't lending and venture capitalists have pulled back to the sidelines, holding on to their money until the economy revives. Meanwhile, carbon based energy costs are beginning to rise again. In Southern California, gasoline is now back up to over $2 per gallon.

That's quite a challenge facing the new administration, one that has promised a push into clean and green energy as a priority. President Obama's selections for his energy team make it clear to me that he is serious about the drive for sustainable energy which will fight climate change and provide the US with independence from foreign energy sources. His stimulus proposal also included a huge chunk of change for the development of affordable clean energy, although how that will fare when the "moderates" in Congress get done with the bill is hard to predict at this point.

Today's Los Angeles Times has an excellent article on the hurdles President Obama's energy policy faces.

President Obama's plans to lead America out of recession rest in part on a task bigger than a moon shot and the Manhattan Project put together. ...

Success hinges on whether Obama can nurture alternative energy sources to the point where they cost no more than fossil fuels, an effort that most experts say will require heavy doses of brainpower, cash and market manipulation.

It also requires clearing most of the same hurdles that frustrated Obama's predecessors, including technology bottlenecks, a shortage of capital to finance innovation and, above all, daunting economic factors that have repeatedly trumped good intentions.

To help renewable energy compete on price, [Energy Secretary Steven] Chu and other officials say, the administration wants to revamp energy research and spend more on it, starting with billions of dollars in the pending economic stimulus bill; create demand for clean energy by forcing utilities to draw from renewable sources such as wind turbines and solar panels; string thousands of miles of transmission lines to bring wind and solar power to consumers; and levy a de facto tax on fossil fuels through a nationwide cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
[Emphasis added]

Clearly that type of program is needed if renewable energy is to take over, and just as clearly, "free market" true believers and carbon based energy providers will fight tooth and nail to thwart such a program.

Free-market advocates don't like the idea. The policies Chu and Obama hope would boost demand for renewables, including an electricity mandate and an emissions cap, "would likely increase consumer energy costs and the costs of a wide array of energy-intensive goods, slow GDP growth" and kill jobs, the Institute for Energy Research, a free-market think tank that has taken funding from oil interests, said in a recent report.

Price Fishback, an economic historian at the University of Arizona, said that when it comes to bringing technologies to market, "governments haven't typically done a very good job of picking winners."

But clean-energy researchers say government has long helped fossil fuels, offering tax breaks and subsidizing transmission systems, such as railroads, that carry coal to power plants.

We've seen what the "free market" has done to our economy and to our food supply and housing markets, something the administration spokespersons might want to point out over and over and over again. We've also seen just who benefits from such a "free market": Exxon Mobil and other fossil fuel multinational corporations are among the few which actually posted profits this last quarter, and obscene profits they were. That's also a good talking point.

We will have to have government intervention if this green revolution is to take place, just as we needed government intervention to get to the moon and to develop the atomic bomb. This is no time to coddle the big boys. Instead, it's time to rein them in and hard.

Let your congresscritters know how important this is. Give their local and DC offices a call, or two, or three. Let them know that our future and theirs depend on it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free Market! HA!
Another Fairytale brought to you by the republican party.

See examples of monopoly, less competition, fewer choices, and false reporting of daily averages.


4:09 AM  
Anonymous jemerson said...

The proponents of the "free market" would have you believe that the folks in charge, the ones who want that new corporate jet to fly to Rio, are acting in the interests of the everyday folks, the ones who just need a new muffler to drive to Walmart...

9:27 AM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

There are NO "free markets."

All markets are under some control or another, regulating either entry, or content, or price, or some other variable.

But "free markets" are na alluring propaganda device. The term seems to exemplify some or another aspects of the USer mythology, concretizes them and reifies them at the same time.

But make no mistake: A free market is not more a "real" thang than are angels...

12:09 PM  

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