Republicans on energy: More pro-business than pro-market 

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.”

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Timothy P. Carney

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