Do We Spend Enough On Alternative Energy Research?

Alexis Madrigal highlighted the two charts below on his blog, Green History, yesterday, calling them “all you need to know about U.S. energy history.

He uses these charts as evidence of how little the government has spent exploring alternative energy. It’s hard to argue with him about that, but we don’t think there is a particular reason for the government to have spent much more than this.

Judging from the breakout by sector, it looks like renewables received a disproportionate amount of funding. Considering that renewable energy provides just 7% of our energy, why does it look like it receives almost half as much funding as coal and natural gas, who provide 22% and 23% of our energy respectively?

Critics of government spending say they hate the idea of the government picking winners and losers. If the government spent its resources on renewables, which, like it or not, haven’t shown themselves to be competitive with fossil fuels, then it would be picking a loser.

Since 2003, we have developed a different set of imperatives to guide our spending decisions. The government is committed to fighting global warming, and providing cheap energy. Those goals, at present, don’t match up very well. In light of that, an expanded R&D budget makes sense. And that’s what we’re getting.

However, until 2003, we don’t think that it was so outrageous that alt-energy was getting the short end of the stick.

 

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