In the news today, five epic energy-failures, brought to you by those who believe in a planned-energy economy:
1) Situation Normal, All Fisked Up — Consumer Reports decided to take a Fisker for a spin. The Fisker, an expensive electric sports car highly subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer isn’t exactly performing up to spec:
Our Fisker Karma cost us $107,850. It is super sleek, high-tech—and now it’s broken.
We have owned our car for just a few days; it has less than 200 miles on its odometer. While doing speedometer calibration runs on our test track … the dashboard flashed a message and sounded a “bing“ showing a major fault….“We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process.”
2) The Ludicrous Prize — Our Department of Energy just gave out $10 million in the form of an L-Prize for the company that could develop the most environmentally friendly, and most affordable, LED light bulb. The prize went to Philips, which produced a 60-watt (equivalent) bulb for the bargain-basement price of only $50.00 each:
Retailers said the bulb, made by Philips, is likely to be too pricey to have broad appeal. Similar LED bulbs are less than half the cost. “I don’t want to say it’s exorbitant, but if a customer is only looking at the price, they could come to that conclusion,” said Brad Paulsen, merchant for the light-bulb category at Home Depot, the largest U.S. seller of light bulbs. “This is a Cadillac product, and that’s why you have a premium on it.”
3) Generous Motors — The People’s Car Company of America, formerly known as General Motors, is showing its generosity these days, with taxpayer money:
In a move little noticed outside of the business pages, General Motors last week bought more than $400 million in shares of PSA Peugeot Citroen – a 7 percent stake in the company. Because U.S. taxpayers still own roughly one-quarter of GM, they now own a piece of Peugeot. Peugeot can undoubtedly use the cash. Last year, Peugeot’s auto making division lost $123 million. And on March 1 – just a day after the deal with GM was announced – Moody’s downgraded Peugeot’s credit rating to junk status with a negative outlook, citing “severe deterioration” of its finances. In other words, General Motors essentially just dumped more than $400 million of taxpayer assets on junk bonds.
4) Keystone Krazy — Once again, the Obama administration has exerted itself to reduce oil imports from a hostile power. Those dangerous, poutine-peddling Canadians don’t have a chance:
President Barack Obama headed off an election-year showdown over energy policy when the Senate defeated a Republican measure that would have authorized the building of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline. Obama lobbied wavering Senate Democrats before yesterday’s vote. He urged them to reject an amendment to legislation funding transportation projects that would have overturned his administration’s decision to deny a permit for the pipeline until an alternative route was proposed to bypass an environmentally sensitive area in Nebraska. The measure failed to pass on a 56-42 vote. Sixty votes were required to advance the amendment.
5) Algae Zero — In the past, I’ve written positively about the prospects for algae-based fuels to contribute to our liquid-fuel supply. Algae produces hydrocarbons naturally, and have a lot of advantages over land-based biofuels. The private sector has already shown a lot of interest in algae fuels, but it is still decades away (at least) from significant market penetration. That hasn’t stopped the president from proposing it as a remedy for high gasoline prices, and converting it into a partisan issue:
President Obama’s latest renewable-energy fixation is algae. During a speech at the University of Miami, he touted his administration’s $24 million investment in the fuel, saying, “Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States.”
As I told National Review reporter Nash Keune, this is a terrible development. Studies show that applied government R&D only displaces private capital, reducing the discipline that market forces exert on researchers. Politicizing algae fuels, I suspect, will only “force responsible private-sector money out of the effort, lure irresponsible rent-seekers into the process, and make funding of it an unreliable political football.”