Pundit H.L. Mencken once noted that for every complex problem there's a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.
We have no better example of that dictum than the energy bills that a joint U.S. House-Senate committee of conferees will attempt to forge into a final version this fall.
Our legislators want to raise taxes on oil and gas companies, repeal most of the incentives enacted in 2005 to encourage offshore exploration and production, require utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their power from renewables and subsidize ethanol and other biofuels like crazy.
In addition, the Senate bill would impose stricter efficiency standards for appliances and lighting while mandating a 40 percent increase in automobile and light truck fuel economy.
Congress is behaving just as it did in 1973 after the OPEC embargo. The same caterwauling over alleged obscene profits and price-gouging that is being sounded today was reverberating 34 years ago. Congress' response was to pass a series of laws that did little or nothing to enhance the nation's energy supply.
Instead, the heavy hand of government intervention distorted the marketplace and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on impractical or uneconomical alternatives to conventional energy supplies. Sometimes referred to as a "travesty in five acts," our national energy policy in the early 1970s actually increased rather than decreased our dependence on foreign sources of supply.
Today's fashionable energy alternatives are biofuels, such as ethanol, and windmills. Sure, these sources can provide some modest percentage of our motor fuel and electric power needs; they currently supply less than 3 percent.
But even with their huge subsidies, they can't produce the billions of BTUs required to fuel America's economic engine -- regardless of how energy-efficient we become. …