The Sunday Washington Post has a nice commentary piece, "Before Solyndra, a long history of failed government energy projects," detailing the Federal government's dismal record of wasting billions on allegedly innovative energy production projects for the past 50 years. It begins:
Solyndra, the solar-panel maker that received more than half a billion dollars in federal loans from the Obama administration only to go bankrupt this fall, isn't the first dud for U.S. government officials trying to play venture capitalist in the energy industry.
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.
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.
All true. I immodestly point out that I covered this ground and more back in my 2009 Reason article, "It's Alive: Alternative energy subsidies make their biggest comeback since Jimmy Carter."
The Post article ends:
Perhaps the federal government is, as former Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers put it, "a crappy VC," or venture capitalist. Or perhaps it should stick to funding basic research. But if more recipients of Energy Department loan guarantees falter, they will become part of a long, if undistinguished, history of failure.
Perhaps? Fifty years of evidence is in; there's no "perhaps" to it. Whole depressing Post article can be found here.