That’s from a new report — “Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech on a Path to Subsidy Independence” — from folks at the Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution, and World Resources Institute. It’s a welcome and much-needed attempt to put some numbers behind the debate over federal cleantech support.
It’s divided into three parts. The first tells the story of cleantech policy over the last five years. Early in his term, Obama unleashed a ton of support for cleantech, mainly via the stimulus bill, but also by funding some programs from the Bush era and earlier. At around $150 billion, federal cleantech spending from 2009-2014 will amount to over three times what was spent from 2002-2008. But that funding is dropping off a cliff:
Basically, what is being highlighted is that the “cleantech” industry cannot survive without government support in the manner of massive amounts of cash. Which, IMO, is a shame, because it would be a Good Thing to expand our energy supply out to these alternatives. But, cleantech can’t survive without this massive infusion of taxpayer money, which we’ve seen not just here in the US, but in Europe, as well. The private sector is rather cool towards investing in these projects when government doesn’t. The private sector has also gone cold on investing in these projects, because there never seems to be a return on investment.
But, Dave makes a good point based on another graph from the report, which shows the massive amounts of money that went into deployment while much, much less went to R&D and manufacturing: namely, cleantech that barely works is being deployed. If we build these windfarms and solar farms and products like the Chevy Volt that are essentially valueless, we’re just dumping money down the drain. Or, better, we’re just giving it to companies that were Obama and Democrat campaign contributors as payback.
If we’re going to spend tens of billions on cleantech, let’s do it so that R&D is performed so that the products are useful, produce large amounts of power, and produce inexpensive energy. Oh, and don’t fall down when it’s windy. Instead, part of Obama’s method was to simply be shown as “doing something”, yet, most of these projects are abject failures, and will cost the taxpayers even more to continue operation. There is no return on investment.