April 24 2012
Carrie L. Lukas
Politicians spooked by rising gas prices are all angling to be seen as embracing an “all-of-the-above” energy plan. They want to reassure consumers that they aren't just dreaming of a pure green energy future while prices soar. They are encourage the exploration and development of coal, oil, natural gas as well as promoting wind, solar, geothermal, and other “green” alternatives.
The latest to try to claim this mantra is Colorado's Governor Hickenlooper. He writes:
Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Democratic state Sen. Pat Steadman and Republican state Rep. Jon Becker, we have an opportunity in House Bill 1315 to expand the mission of the Governor's Energy Office and recast this agency as the Colorado Energy Office.
The new Colorado Energy Office will promote all types of energy that protect the environment, lower consumer costs and increase energy security. The Steadman-Becker bill will extend funding for the Colorado Energy Office for five years and focus the office on long-term energy projects that have broad job creation potential.
In short, this legislation creates an "all-of-the-above" Colorado Energy Office that builds upon our state's national brand as a leader in energy conservation and renewable clean energy. It will also enhance Colorado's reputation for energy innovation.
The Steadman-Becker bill focuses the state's energy work on promoting innovative energy technology, no matter if the fuel source is wind, gas or coal, as long as that energy can benefit the environment and save consumers money.
Colorado residents, and Americans in general, would be wise to note, however, that pursuing an “all-of-the-above” energy plan doesn't require a grand scheme from government. It doesn't require an office of bureaucrats. What it requires is government getting out of the way and letting energy markets work.
One of the problems with our current energy policy is that government has been in the business of picking winners and losers and attempting to force people to use certain energy sources that have been deemed best by government officials. Most famously, the federal government poured hundreds of million into the now bankrupt, once politically-powerful Solyndra under the guise of promoting solar energy. Yet this is just one example among many. The government has also spent years subsidizing the use of ethanol (also politically-powerful, not coincidentally) until it later emerged that in additional to being a very inefficient energy source, it was also environmentally-unfriendly.
Colorado's Energy Office may be created with the best of intentions, but by doling out money to some energy sources, it would necessarily disadvantage others, and would likely waste lots of taxpayer money in the process. The good news is that would-be producers of efficient, accessible, environmentally-friendly energy don't need to wait for a government office. They will find plenty of private sector investors who are interested in making a profit.
The government doesn't need to employ a legion of officials to try to micromanage the vast energy sector. Instead, it needs to create clear rules that protect true environmental interests and then get out of the way so that investors can do the important work of identifying the most promising ways to meet our energy needs.