On subsidizing ‘green’ energy R&D
In its “green” issue this week, The New Republic features an excerpt from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger’s new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility.
Their basic point is that the emphasis of the political debate is all wrong. I’m not sure they really understand how things are shaping up, but they’re saying that politicians should spend less “time” talking about regulatory approaches, and more time reiterating the importance of innovation.
This gives pretty short shrift to the fact that a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade program that auctions credits) is basically an in-kind subsidy to clean energy. But still, regulation and direct subsidies aren’t mutually exclusive, and I think the reason you don’t hear a lot of hand-wringing about subsidies for green R&D is that securing real (as opposed to de facto) subsidies — in any future climate change bill — to well-positioned clean energy companies will be the easy part.*
* Keep in mind that part of the reason this will be easy is that the biggest subsidy winner will almost certainly be King Coal, who will almost without a doubt receive billions and billions of dollars to refine and implement carbon capture and sequestration technology across the country and, perhaps, the entire world.