Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Government Energy Investment

Pew poll shows more support for renewable energy than offshore drilling
 ~ A recent poll by Pew Research shows that support for renewable energy investment by government is declining, especially among Republicans and right-leaning independents.

In this winter of budgetary discontent, declining support is not terribly surprising, and it is still the case that the great majority (a landslide 68%) of the public supports not just continued, but increased government investment in renewable energy development. (And even 53% of Republicans support increased funding.)

What is surprising, however, is the framing of the question. Those opposed consider such funding unnecessary. Not unaffordable, not a lower spending priority, not because renewable technology won't work, not even because of Solyndra. No, because it is unnecessary; opponents think renewable technology will be developed anyway without government support:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted Nov. 3-6 among 1,005 adults, finds that a narrow majority of the public (52%) thinks that government investment is necessary to develop new energy technology. About four-in-ten (39%) say that businesses will produce needed energy technology without government support.

On this measure there also is a large partisan divide. Two-thirds (68%) of Democrats and Democratic leaners say government investment in new energy is necessary. Most Republicans and GOP leaners (59%) say businesses will produce technology without government investment.
The opponents are likely right. Renewable energy will be developed with or without government support. It's just that without the support it will take longer, and probably will largely occur in other countries which will reap the rewards of that investment in long term global competitiveness, economic vitality and jobs.

It is deeply ironic that this criterion of necessity is not applied to other recipients of government grants and tax subsidies. Somehow, the fact that oil and gas subsidies are manifestly unnecessary does not diminish the strident support for continued (and much greater taxpayer) expenditure on fossil fuels. I'm pretty sure that Big Oil will continue their energy development without government support, especially with the profits they're enjoying lately.

How can we ever have a rational energy policy if we use different criteria and different metrics for the different alternatives?

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