Margo Thorning: ‘I think the government’s role should be limited more to R&D’


September 4, 2012 - Margo Thorning and Paul Bledsoe at Washington Post Live's Energy & the Election breakfast forum at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Casey Cunningham)

MARGO THORNING

American Council for Capital Formation

Well, the evidence so far suggests that the government is not very good at picking actual investments to go forward commercially; witness Solyndra, witness all the battery factories that have gone out of business. For example, the electric vehicle industry is struggling; the battery technology is simply not there. I think there’s a role for government to help promote the R&D to begin to help the process along, but I think the record is not good.

When you think about spending $7,500 to get people to buy all-electric vehicles, that’s the taxpayers of the U.S. subsidizing rich people to buy expensive cars. General Motors just shut down the Volt production line because the demand is not there. So I think the government’s role should be limited more to R&D and let the private sector, let the venture capitalists, put [up] their money if they think it’s a good investment.

Right now, 10 federal agencies are trying to begin to regulate the shale gas industry. Most people think that that’s better left to the states and that there shouldn’t be huge new regulatory barriers put in place. Each state’s geography varies; the topography varies. Probably, states are in a better position to understand how to make sure drilling is done safely.

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