Bill To End Fossil Fuel Subsidies Introduced Into Congress

The End Polluter Welfare Act would end fossil fuel subsidies, and save over $10 billion a year and more than $110 billion over 10 years. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Keith Ellison announced they would introduce the bill to Congress during a press conference with 350.org. The bill would specifically end tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, plus eliminate special financing, end taxpayer funded R&D, and set fair royalties policies.

Bernie Sanders describes the End Polluter Welfare Act in an op-ed piece for Reader Supported News as the “most comprehensive ever introduced on this subject.” Sanders added that the Act “ends all the tax breaks, the special financing arrangements, and the federal research and development funding.”

A fact sheet by 350.org lists the money that would be saved by eliminating fossil fuel subsidies:

  • $14 billion saved by eliminating the intangible drilling deduction
  • $12 billion saved by repealing a 2004 law that allows fossil fuel corporations to take deductions aimed at helping American manufacturers by claiming they are manufacturers
  • $6.8 billion saved by closing the loophole that allows corporations like BP to deduct money they spend cleaning up their own oil spills and paying damages
  • $2.4 billion saved by stopping fossil fuel companies from investing through Master Limited Partnerships, an option not available to clean energy businesses
  • $3.7 billion saved by shutting the federal Office of Fossil Energy
  • $10.6 billion saved by recouping lost royalties for offshore drilling in public waters

The fossil fuel sector definitely gets the proverbial lion’s share of subsidies compared to the renewable industry. Fossil fuels are subsidized at almost six times the rate of renewable energy. From 2002 to 2008, the federal government gave the fossil fuel industry over $72 billion in subsidies while the renewable industry only received $12.2 billion.

The majority of Americans favor ending fossil fuel subsidies. The Yale Project on Climate Change’s November 2011 survey found that 70 percent of Americans opposed federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, including 67 percent of registered Republicans. As Senator Sanders put it, “People are sick and tired of seeing the same folks who want to cut nutrition programs for hungry children fight tooth and nail to preserve federal tax breaks that go to ExxonMobil – one of the most profitable corporations in history.”

Senator Sanders is enlisting the help of citizens to garner support for the bill by asking them to sign a petition. Perhaps the petition will help the bill have a fighting chance of survival. However, past bills trying to end fossil fuel subsidies were defeated, and this particular bill is the most ambitious of them all by seeking to effectively end subsidies to fossil fuel companies. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s the independent Senator from Vermont.

Photo: 350.org

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.