Proposed bill would end fossil fuel subsidies

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. announced they would introduce the End Polluter Welfare Act to Congress. The bill would save over $10 billion a year by cutting fossil fuel subsidies – particularly, it would end tax breaks for fossil fuel companies.

The legislation would also put an end to special financing for fossil fuels, end taxpayer-funded research & development, and set “fair royalties policies.” Sanders remarked the Act is “the most comprehensive ever introduced on this subject. It ends all tax breaks, special financing arrangements, and the federal research and development funding.”

A recently released fact sheet outlined the money that would be saved by getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies:

  • $14 billion saved by ending the intangible drilling deduction – which the oil industry currently receives, and which typically represents 60 to 80 percent of the total drilling cost.
  • $12 billion saved by repealing a 2004 law, which allows fossil fuel corporations to claim they are manufacturers, in order to take part in the tax deductions aimed at helping actual U.S. manufacturers.
  • $6.8 billion saved by closing an existing loophole that lets oil companies like BP deduct money they spend cleaning up their own oil spills and paying subsequent damages.
  • $2.4 billion saved by stopping fossil fuel outfits from investing through master limited partnerships, an option that is unavailable to green energy businesses, which illustrates the obvious pro-fossil fuel/anti-clean energy favoritism that exists today. (Indeed, fossil fuels are subsidized nearly six times the rate of renewable energy. From 2002-2008, reports 350, the U.S. government gave the fossil fuel industry $72 billion+ in subsidies, while investments in the green energy industry totaled about $12.2 billion.)
  • $3.7 billion saved by shutting down the Federal Office of Fossil Energy.
  • $10.6 billion saved by recouping lost royalties for offshore drilling in public waters.

It is also quite clear that the fossil fuel industry does not need subsidies: In 2011, said this report, the five big oil powerhouses (BP, Chevron, Conoco, Shell, Exxon Mobil) enjoyed $137 billion in profits, and furthermore earned a combined $33.5 billion in the first quarter of this year alone.

Moreover, unlike green energy incentives, which periodically expire and require Congress to approve extensions, the fossil fuel industry has many subsidies permanently cemented within the tax code after decades of lobbying (which, in 2011, the oil/gas/coal industries spent a combined $167 million doing).

The End Polluter Welfare Act is important, said 350, not only because it ends these unfair pro-fossil fuel benefits, but would also reduce the federal deficit, give $807 to every U.S. taxpayer, and could even go to purchase 2.8 million Chevy Volts.

Sanders is calling on citizens to help make sure that the End Polluter Welfare Act sees the light of day, which they can do by signing a petition.

“People are sick and tired,” said Sanders, “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 Exxon Mobil – one of the most profitable corporations in history.”

Photo: Graphics released by 350, courtesy of Oil Change International, highlight the capitalist greed of the big five oil companies, which enjoy subsidies.



Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the PW home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have also appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the 2010 BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Illinois and frequently visits Europe. He likes cats, wine, books, and nature. In his spare time, he operates a music reaction channel on YouTube, creates artwork, and is writing a fantasy novel.