Ducks in front of the Capitol

Carol Browner, President Obama’s top climate and energy adviser, joined David Gregory on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend and expressed disappointment over the Senate’s inability to pass cap-and-trade legislation. She mentioned “potentially” moving forward with a cap-and-trade bill during the lame duck session. The probability of passing energy tax legislation that would kill more than 2 million jobs may be low, but it’s Browner’s thought process that is particularly troublesome. She said,

There’s a tremendous opportunity for our country to lead the global clean energy revolution. But that requires us to put in place the, the right laws, the right signals so that we build the wind turbines here, we build the solar panels, then we can ship them to China. We’re in danger of losing out.”

In other words, let’s tax the cheap, dependable energy sources and give subsidies to the expensive, unreliable sources. Let’s build a protectionist policy around renewable energy sources so we can produce them domestically—even if it causes our economy to operate less efficiently.

Browner’s words echoed those of the President when he said during his State of the Union speech, “The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”

Why? What if wind and solar become economically competitive and it’s cheaper to import it? When you allow other countries to provide goods more cheaply, Americans gain by purchasing goods at a lower prices and increasing their standard of living. This frees up labor in the United States to specialize and produce goods more efficiently that businesses can export without the government protecting them.

Unfortunately, this Administration is not about making economically rational decisions but pushing tax credits, subsidies, mandates, and loan guarantees for preferred energy sources when it should be removing subsidies for all energy sources. But this mercantilist approach to energy policy is economic ignorance and will make America less prosperous.