COMMENTARY | Are we committed to renewable energy, or not? As the Presidential election draws closer, the issues continue to be debated with great ferocity. Amongst debates about economic growth and the future of the jobs in America, there are questions about energy prices and how they impact consumers like me. Do I want the government to waste money? No. However, I can accept my tax dollars being spent on a certain amount of renewable energy development. We need to get there eventually.
Research and development
Do you know what a research and development division does? They waste money. Obviously, that is not entirely true. Research is about experimentation, which means that there is going to be a certain amount of failure. As a consumer, I want to get the best bang for my buck, but I also recognize that society can be a bit impatient. We want to spend a few million dollars on research and then have a cheap and sustainable form of energy immediately emerge from the laboratory. That may not be realistic, particularly when you are talking about a source and infrastructure that has to meet the needs of a very greedy society.
The entrepreneurial spirit
I know what some people are going to say. Smaller government. Less subsidizing. More entrepreneurial spirit. Those are certainly nice thoughts, but investors do not put money into something unless they can get an immediate payoff. As much as I don't want to be taxed unnecessarily, I recognize that renewable energy is probably not going to get off the ground without some serious government subsidizing in the early years. I bought a few shares of a solar energy company a few years ago. How is it doing? Not well. Why do I still have it? I still have it because it has declined in value to the point where there is really no benefit to letting it go. I might as well be patient and ride this out. The same should go for a societal approach to renewable energy.
A measure of oversight
Now, do I want the government to throw my tax dollars at every organization that calls themselves renewable? Obviously not. However, I expect that some organizations are going to fail miserably. A politician will throw out vague and obvious platitudes about the importance of scrutiny and oversight when it comes to government grants. I won't go there because that is a given. That reality does not have to be proclaimed to me by a person who is trying to look smart behind a podium. Avoiding waste is a nice thought, but when you are talking about experimental outcomes, there is going to be tax dollars that produce no results.
Are we as a nation committed to changing our consumption ways by spending money on sustainable energy or not? If we are, we have to be patient and not complain when our tax dollars do not produce immediate results.
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