John has already noted here Obama’s relentless lamosity over the Keystone pipeline, but you shouldn’t miss Vaclav Smil’s rant about it, “Obama’s Indefensible Pipeline Punt.” Smil is one of the three or four best writers on energy questions, with several notable books deserving a place on your energy shelf. (My favorite is Energy at the Crossroads, but his shorter book for my peeps at AEI, Energy Myths and Realities, is shorter and pithier.)
Meanwhile, in the interest of diversity of opinion on Power Line, my pals Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger at the Breakthrough Institute lodge a dissent on the Steven Mufson Washington Post article on government energy policy failure I referenced here yesterday. I don’t agree with some points of their post, but a few of their observations are worth contemplating, and the last paragraph excerpted here is mostly right:
What gets left out (and forgotten) is that virtually every one of today’s major energy technologies exists thanks to sustained US government investments in research, development, and demonstration. Consider:
- Hydro-electric power like the Hoover Dam could not have been built without public funding.
- Nuclear power — including promising small modular reactors, used for 50 years on U.S. submarines — required intensive government development and investment.
- Today’s wind turbines were pioneered by the United States in the seventies and deployed off-shore thanks to help from the Danish government two decades ago.
- Solar panels were pioneered by NASA, and have seen massive price declines thanks to government research, development, and deployment. Industry leader First Solar is a direct descendant of DOE research as are Nanosolar and GE’s thin film solar division.
- And today’s ultra-efficient natural gas turbines derive from DoD investments in better jet engines and from a DOE program in the 1990s. . .
To be sure, US investments in energy must be reformed. We should stop bluntly subsidizing the deployment of more of the same energy technologies — whether current-generation wind, solar, biofuels, or nuclear — and retool energy incentives to demand steady and continual innovation and cost improvements.