Years ago I had my own Heating/Air Conditioning/Refrigeration business, a sole proprietorship and pretty much a 2 man, 1 receptionist outfit. A pretty nice kid came in one day with a certificate issued to him by the U.S. Government which claimed they would pick up half his salary if I hired him - all part of a "workfare" vocational training program of some kind. I hired the kid, submitted the proper documents and in due course began to get a little chunk of your tax money (mine too I guess).
Now I played by the rules, although I'm sure the program was probably abused so badly it made John Bobitt look like a marriage counselor. Anyway, down the road a bit the kid got a wild hair, quit and went out to start a business of his own. He failed miserably - which is as much a sad testament to my training skills as it was the kid's own poor judgement - but that's another story.
This story however, ends like this: After the guy quit, I sent in the proper documents to terminate the program. But I still kept receiving the checks. I sent the checks back with helpful notes, but I still kept receiving them. I called and talked with a series of boobs who were apparently marking time until more jobs opened up the Barnum and Bailey Travelling Circus. Want to guess what happened? Well... I should have sent those checks back also, but I'll admit I cashed the last 6 or 10 of them - and to this day it still doesn't bother me. Go ahead and sue me Steve, I dare 'ya.
If there's a moral here, it is that the government's idea was fine - but their execution of it was terrible. Somewhere along the line, some bright bulb realized, "Hey, why not take the money were going to pay out in unemployment compensation anyway and use it to get these poor people hired and trained.". Thus was born the miracle of "workfare". Get it? Its the miracle that happens when you take the "wel" out of "welfare" and replace it with "work", which makes everybody in government feel better.
Want more? Thanks for asking. Some years later I worked as the rental manager at a business which rented a ton of trucks to a government run Comprehensive Employment Training Program (CETA for short). Pal, I hit them with the Standard Rate. Why? Heck Steve, they were the Government, and why should anyone in govenment think to ask for a volume discount? I mean, where's the motivation? LSS ( which is short for "Long Story Short" - an abbreviation we bloggers use to save valuable electrons) - what the program did was haul a bunch of high school age kids around to pick up soda cans and beer bottles from the roadside. Steve, now that's what I call comprehensive employment training. We pay them to pick up Seven-Up cans, they use the money to buy video games - and everybody's happy.
Now if you think this all gave me a case of the ass for government run programs, you're getting warm. I've dealt with a lot of bureaucrats in my day, and for the most part I've found them to be reasonably intelligent, hard working individuals. For every bad apple, I've met 5 guys whose dedication really took the bitter taste of the bad ones out of my mouth. Your ratio may be a little lower, I 'dunno. But the point is, you can take a whole roomful of good guys and not make something smart out of something stupid. Only Jim Bakker could do that and I think he's still in jail.
So here we go. As a general rule, you can't make anything more useful by subsidizing it. People will buy subsidized wind or solar power right up until the second the subsidies run out, and not a second more. Yeah sure, some people - good people mind you - are going to buy sustainable wild salmon and recycled plastics - but they're not the people we're worried about. What we're really worried about is the average Joe who goes out looking for cheapest version of anything no matter what it costs to the planet. Guys like you and me, to be honest. The utility that sells solar power at 15 cents a killowatt won't last 5 minutes against the utility that sells coal generated power at 10 cents a killowatt - and features an overhead shot of a strip mine on every invoice to boot. Love it or hate it, that's the rules we play by. And rather than sobbing over it, we ought to be figuring out how to make these rules work for us, and the planet for a change.
On the issue of alternative energy, I'm going to spend some time thinking about how we can get from point A to point B. You're welcome to do the same. I doubt if we'll come up with anything politically palatable - we never do here at LRA&H. But at least when gas hits $12.50 a gallon we'll be able to say I-told-'ya-so.