Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bernie Sanders goes after fossil-fuel subsidies again. Maybe somebody will listen someday

... but, as you and I all know, nobody in either the House or the Senate will tackle this problem as long as those communist Republicans such as Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell are still alive and in government.

  By Meteor Blades 

Despite two recent attempts, Congress has not yet been willing to deep-six subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry even though the oil industry is generating record profits and, together with the centuries-old coal industry, continuing to burden the atmosphere with carbon emissions and kill thousands of Americans a year by pumping their lungs full of toxic pollution.

These past failures aside, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, joined Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) Thursday to introduce legislation that would chop more than $113 billion out of subsidies for the oil and coal industries over the next 10 years. Here's the announcement:

As the sponsors point out, whatever else can be said about it, the fossil-fuel energy industry has no need of taxpayer subsidies. Last year, the five largest oil
companies—BP, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Conoco-Phillips and Shell—alone made $137 billion in profit. In the first quarter this year, their total was $33.5 billion. That's $4143 every second. Together, they spent $13.9 million lobbying Congress in that same quarter.

Although it's not included in the Sanders-Ellison bill, there is a perfect place to spend some or all of that saved money: subsidies for solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources that don't add to the atmospheric carbon load and don't create pulmonary and other health hazards. Shifting $100 billion of fossil-fuel subsidies over the next 10 years into backing for renewables would go far toward building an alternative energy infrastructure by leveraging hundreds of billions in private investment. Indeed, such subsidies have already helped Iowa to generate 19 percent of its electricity from wind turbines.

The loudest complainers about subsidies for renewable energy sources are the mouthpieces of the beneficiaries of fossil-fuel subsidies. And, as noted in Right-wing memo urges creation of bogus grassroots effort to undermine support for wind energy, while lobbying to maintain their own subsidies, the fossil-fuel industry is willing to do whatever it takes to obliterate subsidies for renewables. The claim is made that subsidies for renewables are somehow of a different order, an unfair arrangement that goes way beyond those accorded the fossil-fuel industry. On the contrary, you can read here how solar and wind subsidies follow a path well known to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.

As noted, the Sanders-Ellison bill won't be approved by the Senate and certainly not the House. There's a pretty fair chance it won't even get out of committee. But that doesn't make it mere shadow-boxing. One thing that should have been learned long ago from the right wing, whether it's attacking reproductive rights or backing industries that are killing us and the environment, is that persistence, the relentless pursuit of one's goals, is crucial to reaching the desired destination.

So, despite the inevitable cries of we've-heard-this-all-before and this-isn't-going-anywhere-so-why-bother, it needs to keep being brought up until it is heard and actually gets where we need it to go. Which is the in-box on that desk in the Oval Office.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu May 10

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