Pfund and Healey favor government investments in energy, and their research supports the view that over the years new transitional energy sources have spurred U.S. economic growth and innovation. But their study, “What Would Jefferson Do? The Historical Role of Federal Subsidies in Shaping America’s Energy Future,” also finds that federal support of renewable energy falls short of the aid the federal government has given to oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy when they were new. In fact, they say, backing for renewable energy is trivial in size.
current support for renewable energy with past aid for today’s traditional energy sources, the report focuses on two types of assistance: funding during the first 15 years of support and annualized expenditures over the life of the energy source.
The first 15 years, the report says, are critical to developing new technologies. It finds that oil and gas subsidies, including tax breaks and government spending, were about five times as much as aid to renewables during their first 15 years of development; nuclear received 10 times as much support.
Federal support during the first 15 years works out to $3.3 billion annually for nuclear energy and $1.8 billion annually for oil and gas, but an average of only $400 million a year in inflation-adjusted dollars for renewables.