Republican position on alternative energy

I’m confused as to the GOP platform on alternative energy, independent of its position on climate change. Do Republicans believe that alternative energy will ultimately become competitive with fossil fuels, and simply opposite government investment and aid in accelerating this transition because many suggested interventions or incentives will distort the free market, raise energy prices, result in government acting in the economy in a way that is opposed to the party’s philosophy of government and its proper sphere, etc., or do they believe that alternative energy (solar and wind especially) doesn’t have the potential to compete in a free market with fossil fuels for neither the near nor the far future, and believe a sound energy policy need not involve these alternative energy sources at all or at no more than their present share of energy production, or that, if the theory of man-made climate change is false or in doubt, that alternative energy is a trivial or non-issue?

I’m not a republican, but the opinions have seemed fairly contrarian to me. They seem to look at energy and say ‘liberals like X and hate Y, so we will like Y and hate X’. I wonder how much of the push for nuclear power among the right is just a response to the fact that they believe the left hates it (much on the left are ok with it if done properly). I don’t know how much is organic, and how much is a response to the political opposition. Like with the health care bill, I think energy policy debate is more about making sure the other side doesn’t win, not a nuanced review of policy.

As far as alternative energy, I think they like you say don’t want market distortions, or having the government pick which energy policy should win with subsidies. But we already subsidize fossil fuels so who knows.

I have no idea if many of them feel alt energies will work long term. A criticism I hear is ‘what do you do when the wind stops blowing or the sun goes down’. But I don’t think anyone assumes wind or solar can ever make up 100% of energy (unless we get really good battery technology). Solar is good because it produces the most energy when demand is the highest (during midday hours) but that is just for a few hours a day.

(Note: This entire thing is a WAG with no supporting evidence. Just the impression that I’ve gotten from lots of reading)

I always thought that the opposition was to government subsidy of alt energies. That Republicans think that the free market, blessings and peace upon it’s name, should dictate the rise or fall of any product.

I’ve thought that they were just taking an ideological view of the situation without regard to the consequences. Forget that there are so many important technologies that wouldn’t exist without government help, if they could be done over again, they wouldn’t subsidize those either based on the same rigid philosophy.

I think the Republican position is basically that alternate energy is not ready for prime time if it is not competitive.

It is understood that there are costs with research and ramping up efficiency. If the private sector must bear those costs then the private sector deserves the profit that results. If the development costs are to be borne by the public then the public should share in the profits.

Will alternative energies ever become competitive? It depends of costs and efficiency. There are real limits on how efficient a particular technology could theoretically become. [Scotty from Star Trek voice]You canno’ break the law of physics![/Scotty from Star Trek voice]

If alternative technologies start to approach their theoretical limits of efficiency then the only other direction is to work towards lowering the implementation and/or operating costs. (Build cheaper wind turbines and/or turbines that cost less to maintain.)
As to whether “the theory of man-made climate change is false or in doubt,”… you would probably find answers all over the place in the Republican party. I think the public is done a disservice by having the issue politicized. An honest, frank, and scientific debate amongst experts in the field of climate science goes much further than talking heads on nightly news/entertainment shows spouting their opinions.

I’m not sure why you’re confused; this seems like one of the more consistent planks in the party’s platform. The status quo is that we dig shit out of the ground and burn it to make power. This is mostly handled by the free market, and conservatives feel like the free market is doing a fine job. In fact, conservatives feel like the free market would be doing an even better job if the government would stop prohibiting companies from drilling and digging.

It’s the liberals who are arguing that things are not OK right now. Global warming, consumption of non-renewable resources, and a potential technology gap with other nations are among the reasons cited for why the free market is no longer sufficient to do it’s job. Conservatives don’t believe in global warming, they don’t tend to care much about using up natural resources, and it’s not the government’s place to worry about what technologies private industries are messing with. So their position seems completely internally consisted.

Short sighted and mostly wrong, but internally consistent.

Then please explain the consistent Republican position concerning the heavy subsidization of ethanol production in the US.

Ethanol wasn’t really a party-line issue. It was very popular among farm-state Republicans and Democrats alike. It’s pretty much a dead issue these days, though.

As for the OP I think there’s really two camps with this issue in the party today. There’s still some who completely deny AGW, and thus say developing alternative energy sources isn’t something we need to do. Increasingly, though, most mainstream Republicans concede that AGW is a real thing, but downplay what the actual effects on humans will be and believe that those alternative energy sources that are worth developing will become competitive as fossil fuels get more expensive and thus needn’t be subsidized.

The thing is that in the Republican mindset, the “energy security” aspect of alternative energy was always more appealing than any environmental benefits and before the recent natural gas boom, there were conservatives who supported things like wind and solar (and nuclear) on that basis alone. With the natural gas boom going on now though, the energy independence aspect of alternative energy has become somewhat less appealing. Most all conservatives now would argue that subsidizing domestic fossil fuel production will give us a better ROI in terms of reducing dependence on foreign fuel sources and keeping energy prices low, which is probably true. There is also a very common but generally wrong belief among conservatives that environmental regulations are the main thing holding back domestic energy production and thus if only those could be rolled back domestic production could pick up and we’d be energy independent.

But I don’t believe there has ever been a time when conservatives have not been pro-nuclear, whereas liberals have been pro-nuclear in the past. Therefore at some point there was an alignment - IMO.

I think most Republicans support the closing of these subsidies. There’s a disconnect between the politicians and voters though. As the politicians get financed heavily from them, they don’t want to change a thing. Republicans haven’t really pushed on subsidy reform hard enough to make the politicians change their minds.

Well, isn’t it simply a fact that environmental regulations are the main thing holding back domestic energy production? I think it’s holding it back enough to increase energy prices enough compared to what they would be if there were no such regulations, but I agree with you that we wouldn’t be energy independent, at least not for a long time, until the resources could be developed to a high capacity.

And I really don’t understand the point of delaying building pipelines. Pipelines have been built for almost a hundred years. It’s not like the Deepwater horizon deep sea drilling project, which is clearly more inherently risky.

Can you name some of the regulations you feel are holding domestic energy production back? The whole pipeline kerfluffle is a non-issue, since it was dealing with a currently non-existent bottleneck for shipping oil that only transits through the US on its way overseas. The only environmental regulations that are anything more than a minor nuisance to the oil and gas industry are those that restrict them from drilling in certain types of public land they might like to. Even that’s not a big deal right now because they have FAR more drilling leases on private land and public land than has been cleared for drilling than they have drill rig time to actually drill them.

What’s really holding them back from speeding up production isn’t that they’re afraid they’ll run out of places to drill, but that they’re afraid that prices will slide back below the point that they think they can recoup the drilling costs over the lifetime of a well. We’re already starting to approach that point with the gas plays in the Appalachians, and drilling there is starting to slow down as natural gas prices plunge. Since oil is more of a global commodity, the booms in North Dakota and West Texas are still going strong, but the oil companies certainly aren’t betting the bank that oil prices are going to stay high enough to keep those going either. Contrary to the “drill baby drill” attitude, desiring cheaper energy and desiring more domestic energy are for the most part contradictory goals-- domestic production can only expand while worldwide energy prices stay relatively high.

Agreed … except there is no debate. The public is done a disservice by being lied to, not by having the issue politicized. Difference.

There is only one large scale short term solution to energy production that produces zero co2 emissions and that’s nuclear. The simplest thing to do would be to fast track the production of whatever is the current state-of-the-art facility. That doesn’t mean we build nothing but nuclear plants. It means we use the best mix of power plants that are appropriate for the areas they will be built in. It means we set a target emissions goal and apply the lowest cost to that mix. It also means we upgrade our long distant grid to transfer power from the best production locations to the areas that need power.

Prices contain information. If the prices for alternative energy sources are higher than those from fossil fuels, that means it is more efficient to use fossil fuels. Using the most efficient fuels saves money and allows the entire economy to work better.
It may be that at some point alternative fuels will be more efficient than fossil fuels. At that point there will be no need to subsidize alternative fuels. Until we get to that point it is pointless to subsidize the alternative energy. This is because the government does not know the future. Cheap solar energy has been 10 years away my entire life. At various points wind, geothermal, solar, or nuclear has looked like it might breakthrough but it never has. Since we don’t know what will breakthrough or if anything will it is entirely likely that whatever the government subsidizes will be a failure and we will just have wasted the money.
Ethanol is a prime example of why the government should not be in the alternative energy business. It sounds great to be able to grow fuel, but the process turned out to be inefficient and the reason it was so heavily subsidized was the influence of farm state politicians. This is because politics is inevitable when the government decides what to spend money on. Thus with ethanol relatively wealthy farm corporations got more money for their corn, but no green house gases were saved, and when the subsidy is withdrawn all of the infrastructure that was made possible by the subsidy will have been wasted.
Since fossil fuels have some negative externalities it would be much more efficient to have a revenue neutral carbon tax. That way you do not have to be able to predict the future and a boost is provided to alternative energy.