In examining the involvement of the state in national energy markets one can become easily overwhelmed and dismayed by the scope and complexity of the state’s reach into the energy industry. While the brute force power of the state influences much of the industry’s compliance (US Code) there is also the factor of the money, forcibly taken from tax payers, doled out to the energy sector — this is pure corporate welfare. At a minimum, this corporate welfare encourages corruption and market inefficiencies.
One could write in depth about energy, and state involvement within the energy sector but that would become pedantic. Instead, a section from a complex government report from the US Energy Information Administration (EAI) summarizes the labyrinth of programs and rules representing the state’s reach into the U.S. energy sector.
EIA identified over 70 federal domestic assistance programs, many of which have multiple subprograms, as part of direct or research and development expenditures displayed in this report. 1
It should be obvious this situation is unhealthy; over 70 government programs each being a fiefdom on to the selves is not a ideal way to deal with the intricacies of energy production and consumption. The complexity and waste of most government programs of this size is well understood – Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Administration, Department of Defense, etc..There are news stories almost daily of the waste and fraud within these programs but few documenting the costs of subsidized energy.
However, there is a fundamental flaw beyond the administrative bloat these programs induce, there contradicting interests being simultaneously subsided – renewable vs. fossil vs. nuclear. While most libertarians are aghast at the state picking winners and losers in the market, it is completely lacking congruence of investing in competing sources of energy and expecting increased development and innovation within the industry.
A table in the aforementioned report, Table ES2 highlights taxpayers are subsidizing fossil, nuclear, and renewable sources of energy on a yearly basis to the tune of roughly $30B. The older energy industry sees these investments as an incentive for the status quo and the newer burgeoning energy businesses use their subsides as a crutch and do not innovate as they would if they were competing for their company’s lives in the free market.
It is time to remove the state from energy production and let the free markets deliver the most economical and sustainable energy possible.
“Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2013.” EIA, U.S. Energy Information Administration , Mar. 2015, https://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/pdf/subsidy.pdf.