The problem with industries propped up by taxpayer dollars is that eventually you tend to run out of other people’s money.
Germany is pulling the plug on solar energy:
One of the world’s biggest green-energy public-policy experiments is coming to a bitter end in Germany, with important lessons for policymakers elsewhere.
What went wrong?
Unfortunately, Germany – like most of the world – is not as sunny as the Sahara. And, while sunlight is free, panels and installation are not. Solar power is at least four times more costly than energy produced by fossil fuels. It also has the distinct disadvantage of not working at night, when much electricity is consumed.
In the Netherlands, they can’t afford wind subsidies any more:
The nation known for its iconic windmills is throwing in the towel on offshore wind power, as Dutch officials have determined the Netherlands can no longer afford large-scale subsidies for expensive wind turbines that cannot produce electricity at economically competitive prices.
The decision is a powerful blow against renewable power advocates who have long asserted Holland proves renewable power can be practical and economical.
Here in America wind subsidies are on their way out too given that Congress is refusing to renew subsidies for the industry. Last year Congress let some ethanol subsidies expire as well, which has resulted in ethanol plants being shut down, and we’re all familiar with the high-profile collapse of the solar industry in America despite billions spent on government loans and subsidies.
All of this was predicted by critics of such subsidies years ago. These industries, for which there is little or no actual market demand, last almost exactly as long as their special political favors do. The idea of powering cities from wind and sun, not to mention powering cars with corn, is nice in concept. I don’t have any objection to any of these things per se.
The problem is that the energy products offered by these industries just aren’t competitive. Coal and oil and natural gas are cheaper and more reliable. Maybe one day there will be some new technological innovation that makes solar or wind power feasible in a free market (I suspect that being able to store large quantities of power reliably would probably do the trick), but maybe that day will never come.
What we know doesn’t work is the government spending endless sums of tax dollars on trying to force these industries on the market.