Federal Energy Failures

November 14, 2011

In the Washington Post, Steven Mufson does a nice job describing how Solyndra is just one of many energy subsidy failures of recent decades.

I covered some of the same topics as Mufson–including the Clinch River Breeder Reactor and the Synthetic Fuels Corporation–in this study at Downsizing Government. However, I presented the politics of these two projects a bit differently than Mufson. He sort of suggests that the Reagan administration was gunning to kill the Clinch River project, and that only the Carter administration was to blame for Synthetic Fuels.

Regarding Clinch River, President Carter should be credited with trying hard to kill it, but Congress blocked him. The Reagan administration initially supported the project, but that changed as the bad news mounted over time. I noted:  “The combination of bad economics, environmental problems, and cost overruns gave the upper hand to project opponents in Congress, and funding was cut off by a fairly narrow vote in the Senate.”

Regarding Synthetic Fuels, the Reagan administration was once again initially supportive, and it only later changed course due to falling oil prices and numerous scandals in the program. When it became clear that the political winds were changing, I noted that ”there was a mad dash to hand out subsidies before Congress shut the project down.”

That sounds familiar doesn’t it?


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