Whatever one’s political viewpoint, one easy takeaway from the Solyndra mess is that the government is awful at picking winners and losers. At best, government’s hand distorts markets and erects barriers to entrance. At worst, it wastes loads of taxpayer money while lining the pockets of already-powerful special interests.
As bad as the Solyndras of the left already are, it may be altogether worse for Republicans to try their hand at picking our own winners and losers. But that is exactly what is happening in Florida, where legislators have bet heavily on natural gas.
There are lots of great reasons that Florida should be a Nat Gas leader. It is both cheaper and greener than traditional fuel. Plus, Florida has lots of it. There is no need for Tallahassee bureaucrats to rush to our rescue.
Get a load of this news bit:
A bill (HB 579) passed by the Legislature this session employs the former method. It offers rebates to cities or companies that convert gas-powered fleets to natural gas, and makes natural gas sales tax-exempt for five years under a newly minted tax structure.
“What we really want to do is incentivize people to make the conversion,” said state Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, the House sponsor of the bill.
It gets rid of the current natural gas fee structure, which requires owners of natural gas vehicles to pay an annual fee. It replaces it with a structure that taxes each “motor fuel equivalent” of natural gas. The tax structure will not be implemented until 2019, making natural gas sales tax-free over that time.
The bill also creates a program that uses $6 million annually over the next five years to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of converting a gas-powered vehicle to one that runs on natural gas. It has the support of state environmental groups.
With respect to Rep. Ray, that’s a horrifying mentality. It fundamentally implies that government has both the authority and the mandate to play Jiminy Cricket.
The best way forward in America’s energy future is an all of the above approach, where markets drive innovation while driving down prices. Neither Florida nor the federal government should press their heavy thumb on the scales to make the people’s choices for them. In energy as in other things, politicians should resist the urge to help by intervening in the natural course of innovation.