Energetically Political

by Don Boudreaux on March 30, 2011

in Energy, Environment, Politics, Seen and Unseen

Mr. Joshua Freed
Director of Clean Energy
Third Way
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Freed:

Thanks for your e-mail today seeking my support for your proposal to have Uncle Sam “require utilities to generate a percentage of their electricity from clean (non- or low-emitting) energy sources.”  It’s interesting that the first alleged benefit that you trumpet for your plan is that it will create lots of “new jobs.”

I’ve some questions.

Suppose a brilliant scientist invents a method enabling a single unskilled worker to supply every American with ample low-cost energy as clean as the energy that your proposal promises to deliver.  Which method of energy supply would you support: yours, or that of the brilliant scientist?

If you’d support your plan over that of the brilliant scientist, then I can’t take your proposal seriously, for it would be revealed to be the product of a mind that mistakes costs (the use of precious human labor) for benefits.  And anyone who misunderstands economics so fundamentally is unlikely to have trustworthy insights into just what Americans’ energy demands will be in the future or how best to supply those demands.

If, instead, you’d support the plan of the brilliant scientist, why, when promoting your plan, do you emphasize the large number of “new jobs” that it will create?  My guess is that you do so for political reasons – because you understand that politicians make decisions based upon such economically foolish criteria.  So talking loudly about creating “new jobs” gives your proposal a broader hearing along Pennsylvania Ave.  But then, I must inquire, why do you trust these same politicians – officials who are enchanted by economic nonsense – with the awesome power to mandate nationwide clean-energy standards?

Donald J. Boudreaux

[Here’s the ‘clean-energy’ memo that came along with Mr. Freed’s e-mail.]


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