Yesterday brought a rewarding correspondence with colleagues on the absurdity of the rent-seekers’ line that unless we mandate (something uneconomical) here, why, our domestic producers will be left behind! I have addressed this before in the states before policymakers considering the Center for Climate Strategies/Rockefeller Brothers Foundation effort to install a patchwork of Kyoto-style regimes forcing federal action to bail them out, and on Planet Gore.
This particular exchange was prompted by a claim that “There’s only one American company, that’s General Electric, that is even in the world’s top 15 suppliers of wind turbines” (GE means the old Enron Wind that was one of the investments cobbled together as Enron created the Global Warming Industry in the 1990s, along with BP). The point was essentially that, unless we hobble ourselves with a national windmill mandate, why, we might get shut out of having a world-leading windmill manufacturer.
And for some reason policymakers aren’t throwing lobbyists making this argument out of their office. Apparently, windmills are a strategic and critical industry.
A rewarding series of exchanges followed, raising points including but by no means limited to the following:
OK. So what if we don’t develop a world-leading windmill manufacturer? Is attaining such a thing really worth wasting money on, and building inefficiencies into the economy for, for its own sake?
Put another way, even if imposing such mandates would result in ensuring a world-leading windmill maker, it still doesn’t justify doing it.
One colleague noted (insert sarcasm font) “Yes, the United States has paid the price for failing to develop technologies that other governments subsidized. I mean, what about things like this:
Analog HD TV (Japan)
Minitel–110 baud ‘Internet’ for government services only (France)
The Concorde (UK and France)”
One cited “other UK examples–the Advanced Passenger Train, the civil Hovercraft, Magnox nuclear reactors, in fact just about anything invested in by the National Research and Development Corporation in the 60s and 70s . . . ”
Another noted that “such ‘good ideas’ fail with the same frequency as the bad ones. Putting a networked computer terminal in every home is a good idea. Building minitel, however, probably hurt France’s chances of becoming an Internet hub.”
In short, U.S. rent-seekers demanding that we adopt Euro-style inefficiencies have also adopted the classic Euro-style argument, which I encountered repeatedly in Brussels. Europe is desperate to find an identity, and to claim world leadership in something, anything, whatever it might be. Investigate how they arrived on the climate kick: many pols admit they simply selected an issue on which to claim leadership and to distinguish themselves from the U.S. We have no need for policy based on such vacuous advocacy.
So we won’t be among the world leaders in an industry that has proven it cannot compete without government mandates and subsidies. We should instead–at least in happier times–be content to watch others pour money down this rat hole. But we need not imitate the behavior. Older countries should be better at older technologies, and wind’s age was many moons ago. We might as well aspire to remain competitive with French guillotine craftsmen as waste billions on keeping our windmills, er, up-to-date.