EDITORIAL: Steven Chu is no Don Draper

Leave the advertising campaigns to Madison Avenue

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A good product can sell itself. There’s no reason for Uncle Sam to step in and serve as the chief marketing officer for any private corporation. So the House took a welcome step last week when it adopted a measure by Rep. Jeff Landry, Louisiana Republican, that pulls the plug on the Energy Department’s authority to spend $20 million on a “national media campaign” against affordable energy.

The same congressional geniuses that came up with the idea of banning incandescent light bulbs also created a program that lets agency bureaucrats play the role of Don Draper from TV’s “Mad Men.” The law adopted in 2007 allows them to use fistfuls of taxpayer cash to come up with the kind of advertising meant to wow President Obama’s leftist political base. Taxpayer funds were set to cover the cost of media buys, poll testing, “creative and talent costs” and, naturally, administrative overhead to convince people to “decrease oil consumption.”

The idea was to brainwash Americans into thinking old-fashioned windmills and sun power are superior to petroleum. Mr. Landry thinks that’s not something the Obama administration should do. “The American public knows far better than any government bureaucrat what energy sources work best for them, their families and their businesses,” he said on the House floor. “Instead, private green-energy firms should use their own advertising campaign funds on behalf of the energy sources they sell.”

Of course, not many green-energy firms are all that private. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the feds have been pouring money into “renewables” with subsidies that jumped 55 percent from 2007 to 2010. The National Center for Policy Analysis reviewed the official statistics and found solar-panel farms received $775 in federal cash for each megawatt-hour of power produced. By comparison, government support for coal and natural gas was 64 cents.

The Energy Department needs its ministry of propaganda to make such an absurdly uneconomic undertaking seem plausible. Oil bashers want everyone to dump their current SUVs and buy a hybrid-electric Chevy Volt. It’s not happening. Government Motors sold just 1,680 Volts last month, but many of these turned out to be fleet purchases. General Electric, one of the top green-subsidy recipients, has promised to buy 12,000 electric cars from GM by 2015. State, federal and local governments also have raced to add the overpriced golf carts to their fleet.

Americans rightly preferred more useful vehicles in May. Ford sold 54,836 of its F Series trucks, Chevy moved 34,555 Silverados and Dodge sold 26,040 Rams - that’s a 6,800 percent sales advantage for the pickup over the Volt.

Bureaucrats don’t answer to shareholders, so they can waste money trying to convince Americans they should buy things they will never want. This crony capitalism needs to come to an end.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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