The government has been picking energy winners and losers for a long time already. (Photo by Shutterstock.)

Now that renewables are receiving some of the same incentives that fossil fuels have enjoyed for nearly 100 years, we’re suddenly being inundated with calls for a purely “free-market” approach to energy development from politicians on the right and companies concerned about the growth of clean energy.

Their arguments make for good sound bites. But if we take a look at the history of energy development in the U.S., it’s very clear that we’ve never had a truly “free” market. In fact, all of the technologies that dominate our energy system today were given special incentives by the government in order to get them to commercial scale.