Subsidizing the Competition
Big Oil "under-invests" in alternative energy? So what?


Deroy Murdock

In May 2006, the Institute for Energy Research and the Center for Energy Economics found that oil and gas companies spent $1.2 billion between 2000 and 2005 on wind, solar, geothermal, and other non-fossil fuels. Washington simultaneously appropriated $1.6 billion on such projects.

Meanwhile, Big Oil devoted $11 billion researching end-use technologies, including efficient heat and power co-generation, plus fuel-cell vehicles. Big Government plowed $800 million into such advancements.

All-told, the evil oil companies expended $12.2 billion on new energy sources. That quintupled the federal government’s $2.4 billion commitment.

BP in 2007 allocated $700 million to domestic wind-power projects. This year, five new BP wind farms worth $1.5 billion will generate 700 megawatts of electricity. BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, and Shell jointly have invested $3.5 billion in solar, wind, and biodiesel ventures.

Rep. Markey’s bête noir, ExxonMobil, has spent $1 billion since 2004 on co-generation technology. It also is donating $100 million to Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project.

“We have 40 breakthrough programs underway looking at every aspect of renewables,” ExxonMobil senior vice-president J. Stephen Simon told Markey’s committee April 1. “We are looking at solar. We are looking at biofuels, biomass.”

Of course, if Exxon finally discovered how to extract fuel from banana peels, politicians who would burn CEO Rex Tillerson at the stake today will berate Exxon tomorrow for making “obscene profits” on banana power.

If oil companies’ shareholders and managers enjoy researching renewable energy, hooray! But the awful new idea that they should be coerced or compelled to do so should be stomped on with work boots until dead. No firm or industry should be expected or required to invest in its own obsolescence. This is common sense. But most concepts that waft from Washington, D.C. — like methane escaping a landfill — stopped making sense ages ago. So it goes as Congress increasingly scorns alternatives to its own power.

NRO contributing editor Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.

© 2008 Scripps Howard News Service