New Energy Boone-doggle and the Republicans' Moment of Decision

Consider these two dueling headlines in today's ClimateWire and their sub-heads (subscription required), as helpful reminders of how absurd U.S. energy politics have become (and why no one points to Europe any more as our 'green energy' model).



More important, they bring a little more focus on what appears to be the Republicans' moment of deciding who they are, and who they will be.

1. BUSINESS: Solar industry sees some economic clouds after Italy slashes subsidies


...Italy, which last year installed 14 percent of global new solar capacity, recently became the latest country to slash its solar subsidies, delivering another blow to the industry as falling solar panel prices and weak demand have led several manufacturers to downgrade their sales and profit forecasts for the year.



2. FINANCE: Bill Gates calls for more U.S. clean energy investment...


Yes, Gates in an 'investor' in these things that, according to the various industries' own press releases, exist only by the grace of, and cannot survive without, wealth transfers and other favors from the government. Oh, on a related note, another erstwhile windmill promoter -- because that seemed to be a good way to use the state to create more market share for his gas interests -- has decided, upon the failure of said windmill schemes, that a Plan B is in order.

And on cue, while we're worried about spending and subsidies and distorting markets in favor of things that can't make it happen on their own, (and told that our political class, are too), 180 Members of Congress are trying to create a new energy subsidy, one that would divert a product used in numerous other applications critical to our economy.

Because these interventions have worked out so well in the past. Hmm. Maybe, the plan is such a brilliant idea that the economy just can't see it. Er, four ethanol boondoggles -- toss in state-dependent wind, solar and natural gas cars -- are better than one. Or something.



Rakish policy types call the NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions) Act 'the T. Boone Pickens Earmark Bill', or the 'Boone(doggle)'. And Politico reports today that "House Democrats are rolling out two major bills this afternoon. ...[including one that] would incorporate portions of the NAT GAS Act boosting natural gas vehicles and codify other measures intended to boost alternative fuels, electric cars and vehicle efficiency. The bills are parts two and three of a trilogy Nancy Pelosi kicked off last week." Wonderful. But wait.

What makes this scheme even more amazing is that 80 of them are Republicans (for the moment...Tea Party, call on Line 1). No, correct that: it is being given political life by Members who spent recent years attaining their position with the vow that they share the growing public unease about such things and they're conservatives and fiscally sane -- really!

What makes this scheme even more amazing is that 80 of them are Republicans (for the moment...Tea Party, call on Line 1). No, correct that: it is being given political life by Members who spent recent years attaining their position with the vow that they share the growing public unease about such things and they're conservatives and fiscally sane -- really!



But, then, well, seems a few nice liberal Members and a billionaire came by and, gee, they showed me this wonderful bag of magic beans...

We know how this TBoonedoggle would end if given the chance: like the rest of its predecessors. The bigger question is how this moment ends for the Republicans. When you come home at the end of a long day's policy battle, where are going to go? Back to the corporatist, support me, Paul, and I'll rob Peter to pay you, too model that kept leaving you an untrustworthy steward of the public fisc? Or the newfound, potentially popular brand, admittedly by default but with promise?

It does seem that now is the time. And energy issues provide the decision point. Republicans, the newly engaged public wants to know: are you serious?

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