U.S. Energy Policy: The Pursuit of Failure

February 14, 2024

U.S. Energy Policy: The Pursuit of Failure

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In a compelling episode of The American Idea, Jeff Sikkenga engages in a conversation with Professor Peter Grossman, a distinguished economist and author of the book “US Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure.” The dialogue delves into the historical intricacies of energy policy in the United States, shedding light on the recurring theme of pursuing policies destined for failure.

The Illusion of Utopian Goals

Grossman unveils the paradox within US energy policy, where policymakers persistently advocate for utopian goals without considering the practicality of implementation. The discussion critiques the tendency to propose grandiose solutions promising to revolutionize the energy landscape without addressing fundamental issues.

Lessons from History

Grossman draws on historical lessons, emphasizing that past policy failures should serve as cautionary tales for contemporary decision-makers. Despite decades of setbacks, there seems to be a consistent disregard for historical lessons, as each new administration and Congress embark on similar misguided endeavors.

Examining Specific Policy Failures

The conversation highlights instances of policy failures, such as the misguided attempt to control natural gas prices and the unrealistic pursuit of energy independence. Grossman argues that policymakers often cling to ineffective policies, driven by a belief that pouring more resources into initiatives will eventually yield success[4].

Nuclear Power as a Viable Alternative

Grossman proposes a pragmatic approach, advocating for the utilization of nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions and ensure long-term energy availability. Changing public attitudes and dispelling misconceptions about nuclear energy are crucial steps in this direction.

Repealing Ineffective Policies

Grossman recommends a critical reassessment of current energy policies, calling for the repeal of counterproductive mandates such as ethanol and solar/wind requirements. Rolling back unnecessary regulations and allowing market forces to operate more freely could contribute to a stable and cost-effective energy environment.

Economic Way of Thinking

The conversation emphasizes the importance of adopting an economic way of thinking, with a focus on cost-benefit analysis and practical feasibility. This approach steers policymakers away from unrealistic utopian visions that are bound to fail.

Looking Forward

As the discussion concludes, Grossman urges policymakers to adopt a more modest and present-oriented approach to energy policy. Rather than envisioning distant-future solutions, he advocates for strategies grounded in economic rationality that address current challenges.

In essence, the pursuit of failure in US energy policy, as explored in this enlightening discussion, underscores the need for a shift towards pragmatic, economically sound, and historically informed approaches to shape the future of America’s energy landscape.