He says Chevy, even with its government subsidies, loses about $49,000 on every Volt it builds. It's ironic that, as environmentalists talk about "sustainability," they create totally unsustainable subsidy schemes.
"It's happening with all kinds of alternative energy companies that rely on government subsidies," Harsanyi says. Politicians, by shifting money away from private-sector experiments, "are hurting companies that actually have some innovation that might work better."
Since people rarely question spending that supposedly is "good for the environment, green subsidies create opportunity for corruption," Harsanyi says. "The people who lobby and have the closest ties to government are typically the ones who benefit from the subsidies the government gives."
Close associates of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and former Vice President Al Gore all benefited from well-timed investments in green companies that got a leg up from government subsidies and regulations.
Unfortunately, green companies often do poorly even with government assistance, as was the case with solar panel maker Solyndra.
I don't doubt there are important technological advances ahead that will make energy use more efficient -- and make the environment cleaner, sometimes as an unintended side effect. But I don't trust government to pick the technologies.
Why should we think government's ideas for cleaning the environment are on the cutting edge? As Harsanyi points out, windmills, one of environmentalists' favorite ideas and biggest subsidy-recipients, "have been around since the Middle Ages."
There will be a better way. Government probably won't find it.