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Wasted Taxpayer Dollars - $172 Billion, and Counting

In the Outlook section of yesterday’s Washington Post, Steve Mufson wrote about “the government’s dim record on energy investments.” The following will surely bring back memories to some os us:

“The Clinch River Breeder Reactor. The Synthetic Fuels Corporation. The hydrogen car. Clean coal. These are but a few examples spanning several decades — a graveyard of costly and failed projects.”

Mufson follows-up by saying:

“Not a single one of these much-ballyhooed initiatives is producing or saving a drop or a watt or a whiff of energy, but they have managed to burn through far more more taxpayer money than the ill-fated Solyndra. An Energy Department report in 2008 estimated that the federal government had spent $172 billion since 1961 on basic research and the development of advanced energy technologies. (emphasis added)

“What does Washington have to show for these investments? And should the government even be in the business of promoting particular energy technologies?”

The report, U.S. Federal Investments in Energy R&D: 1961-2008 (requires Adobe), was prepared by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, operated by Battelle, for the U.S. Department of Energy, under contract DE-AC0-76RL01830. Following is the report’s abstract:

“This paper documents nearly a half century of U.S. federal government support for energy research and development (R&D).  Data on energy R&D expenditures disaggregated by major program area are presented here for the first time for the period 1961-2008.  This paper also documents U.S. federal government spending on key large scale energy R&D programs that were initiated in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s.  Since 1961, the U.S. government has invested nearly $172 billion (in inflation adjusted 2005 US dollars) for the development of advanced energy technologies and for the necessary underlying basic science.  Over this period, nearly 24% of the total federal investment in energy R&D occurred during the short seven-year span of 1974-1980. From 1977-1981, energy R&D investments briefly rose above 10% of all federal R&D; however, since the mid-1990s energy R&D has accounted for only about 1% of all federal R&D investments.”

Count the ways that government is able to burn through your tax dollars.

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