John Fund

In the classic 1967 movie "The Graduate," Dustin Hoffman plays a young man with a new college degree but no clear vision of what he wants to do. A family friend insists on giving him career advice: "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. . . . Plastics." Following the GOP loss of Congress, the Bush White house appears similarly fixated on just one phrase: "alternative energy." The plans will apparently be bold indeed. Recently White House energy policy coordinator Al Hubbard told an audience that Mr. Bush's State of the Union message this month would generate "headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence." Some observers think that could mean the White House will even embrace a big increase in gasoline mileage requirements. They note that influential GOP Sen. Ted Stevens of oil-rich Alaska, a longtime foe of such increases, has changed his mind and just unveiled a bill to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 40 miles per gallon within 10 years.

The Bush White House is clearly interested in not having anyone steal its thunder on energy before the State of the Union. Last month, a federal advisory panel was prepared to release a report that called on the administration to launch a nationwide education campaign to tout the benefits of biofuels and the "real costs" of oil use. It also called for the U.S. to produce 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel by 2015, more than double today's level.

But the administration was not pleased by the timing. It ordered the panel not to publicize the report because it might upstage upcoming announcements from President Bush. The report was finally released only after persistent media inquiries about it.

Free-market advocates worry that the administration may be about to abandon common sense and embrace alternative energy as a cure-all. They believe that in the current euphoria the "real costs" of alternative energy aren't fully understood.

Take wind energy, long touted as the most economic of renewable energy sources. Ed Feo, a leading wind energy analyst, has estimated that two-thirds of the economic value of wind projects comes from the tax benefits it's given.

John Fund

John Fund writes the weekly "On the Trail" column, reprinted here with permission from the Wall Street Journal and He is author of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy" (Encounter, 2004).

Be the first to read John Fund's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.