The New Carbon Economy and Its Discontents

For a movement that prides itself as “progressive,” today’s Left is notably ignorant of progress.

Michigan’s left-wing Detroit Free Press editorial page Sunday embraces federal subsidies for rich greens from Solyndra to GM under the guise that they are a key to something the Freep deems “the leadership of the post-carbon economy.”

This is religion, not economics. There is no such thing as “the post-carbon economy” any more than there is a post-newspaper economy (or does the Free Press propose taxpayer dollars for its own digital ventures as it phases out its most profitable business, newsprint?). Indeed, the energy revolution of the moment is in carbon (as Daniel Yergin reports on the Wall Street Journal editorial page today) — the natural gas fracking and oil-shale revolutions that have opened whole new fields of cheap carbon energy.

Manufacturing superpowers like Michigan (the nation’s 9th biggest producing state) and the U.S. (30 percent of global GDP) run on cheap carbon — not expensive windmills. And despite President Obama’s dismissal of the shale & frack revolution, the U.S. is leading a dramatic rise in domestic carbon production. That is, U.S. dependence on foreign oil is in decline — but not due to the millions that Obama has “invested” in alternatives.

No, the domestic boom is coming in spite of him. And the Left is utterly ignorant of this development.

The Free Press has traditionally thrown fits over the military-industrial complex’s overspending on big weapons programs like the B-2 bomber, but now shrugs off green-industrial complex abuses like Solyndra and Beacon Power. At least Pentagon technologies are the world leaders in government’s core responsibility: national defense.

But Detroit’s advocate for market socialism really shows its ignorance when it comes energy history. “Ideological purists (i.e., capitalists) . . . are forgetting how aggressive the federal government has been in subsidizing the oil and natural gas industries over the last half-century.”


Gasoline beat out electric and steam-powered autos in the 20th century — not because they were subsidized by Washington — but because the market determined that oil was the best fuel source. The same phenomenon is happening today. It’s easy to predict the future when you are blind to the past.

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