Ethanol subsidies, oil drilling incentives, government insurance and loan guarantees for nuclear energy, natural gas subsidies: These proposals tend to have as many or more Republican advocates as Democratic advocates. Even worse, self-described free-market conservatives often rally for energy subsidies and claim it’s not a deviation from their principles.
Today, at the liberal environmentalist website Grist, blogger Dave Roberts takes to task Newt Gingrich. Roberts, with whom I often spar on the Interwebs, has a great (and depressing) argument and analysis of Gingrich’s defense of current energy subsidies and proposal for even more energy subsidies. This is the heart of the argument:
Gingrich and his acolyte defend these subsidies. Why? Says Gingrich, “a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country.”… Fossil-fuel subsidies don’t reduce costs, they shift costs. The burden is moved from energy companies to the public. The result is what we have today: energy that looks cheap because most of its costs are hidden from view.
Amen. Later on, Roberts sounds like me:
[Gingrich] is pro-business, or more precisely, pro-some-businesses, which is very different — the opposite, even — of pro-market. If you want to make sense of his various words and actions, no ideological or economic principle will help. It’s pure instrumentalism: the exercise of political influence in service of protecting energy incumbents.
I’ve written plenty on subsidies for “green” energy (windmills, electric cars, ethanol). But I’ve also written about subsidies for oil, nuclear, natural gas, and coal. And a month back, Max Borders had a great post on our Opinion Zone blog on the Republicans’ “all-of-the-above” energy plan as being “right-wing rent-seeking.”