It was a typical good news/bad news environmental story that the mainstream media loves. Only in this case, as the Seattle Times reported, the good news was for “consumers and the economy”, and the bad news was for those extreme environmentalists wanting more government control of the energy sector.
The story was about how even with a multi-million-dollar federal grant, the biofuels industry can’t overcome the fact that oil prices make biofuels uneconomic. Even with Jay Inslee cheerleading from the sidelines.
As the Times phrased it, “Four years after the University of Washington received a $40 million federal grant to kick-start a biofuels industry in the Northwest, plans are lagging, in large part because fossil fuels are so inexpensive.”
The UW shouldn’t feel bad about its inability to overcome market forces, however, as the story notes that “The $40 million, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was part of a five-year, $136 million grant to several research universities, including UW and Washington State University, in September 2011.
“It was the largest grant the Department of Agriculture had ever made. At the time, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he was confident that in five years a new industry would be churning out fuel from trees. Vilsack flew to Seattle to make the announcement with now Gov. Jay Inslee, then still a congressman, at Sea-Tac Airport.
Turns out that all that research work couldn’t overcome the basic fact that when oil prices are relatively low, it is by far the preferred choice of those who care about economics.
Oh well, maybe Tom Steyer can throw more of his millions at changing the laws of supply and demand.