The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded $2.4 billion in stimulus money to develop and manufacture electric vehicles. The ostensible purpose of the government’s effort is to set the nation on a path toward more environmentally friendly transportation. But as the USA Today notes, electric cars might not provide the environmental benefits that proponents cite:
Biofuels lobbyists have been successful in securing federal funding and regulatory support. As an industry that thrives on federal subsidies, any threat to its privileged status is a cause for alarm. This week Energy Secretary Stephen Chu set off such alarm when he told a group of alternative energy developers that “if it were up to me, I would put every cent into electric cars.”
It didn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to recognize that the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program would put upward pressure on used-car prices. In nominating it “the dumbest program ever” back in August, Chris Edwards noted that “low-income families, who tend to buy used cars, were harmed because the clunkers program will push up used car prices.”
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal took a lengthy look (subscription required) at the deteriorating financial situation of domestic biofuel producers. According to the Journal:
Try as they might, supporters of big government spending cannot make federal programs work very well. The Department of Energy, for example, has been plagued by mismanagement, cost overruns, and scandals for decades.
People who support expanded federal intervention into areas such as energy and health care naively assume that policymakers can make economically rational and efficient decisions to allocate resources. They cannot, as a Washington Post story today on FutureGen illustrates.