Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison recently proposed the “End Polluter Welfare Act” – a bill that seeks to end the federal subsidies provided to major players in the fossil fuel industry. How extensive are these subsidies? Oil Change International reports that in 2014 alone, US taxpayers provided $21 billion for fossil fuel exploration and production—in a year in which the five largest oil companies posted profits of more than $89.7 billion.
Under the End Polluter Welfare Act, Sanders and Ellison believe that they could cut $135 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel companies over the course of a decade. The problem with the proposed bill comes in the form of political will; oil and gas companies spent $1.8 billion in lobbying in 2014, and provide substantial campaign contributions to the very members of the House that authorize the subsidies.
An investigation by The Guardian identified three specific projects, by Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon that are alone in line to receive massive state subsidies. The first, a proposed $4 billion Shell petrochemical refinery in Pennsylvania is in line to receive $1.6bn in tax payer-funded subsidies, under a 2012 deal struck by the then Republican governor, Tom Corbett. According to the Guardian, he received over $1 million in contributions from oil and gas companies.
The second is the ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge—the nation’s second largest refinery that sits on what is known as Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has provided Exxon with exemptions from industrial taxes that total some $118.9 million over ten years—this at a time when the Louisiana State University faces a budget situation so dire that it may have to file for bankruptcy. And, as the Guardian reports “In state election campaigns between 2003 and 2013, [Jindal] received 231 contributions from oil and gas companies and executives totaling $1,019,777.”
Lastly, the investigation highlights the 15-year, $78.5 million tax credit that Marathon is receiving for “retaining 1,650 jobs and a 10-year tax credit for creating 100 new jobs.” Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich received $213,519 in donations from oil and gas companies in 2011, and in the same year he appointed Marathon’s CEO to the board of Jobs Ohio, a semi-private group which is ‘in charge of the economic growth in the state of Ohio.”
The trend is outrageously clear, and it’s nothing new—lobbyists for oil and gas companies have been doing a stellar job for their employers for the past century. But if renewable energy is to experience the growth that is necessary—and if we are to keep remaining fossil fuels in the ground—then ending subsidies to polluters is, as Ben Schreiber, at Friends of the Earth US says “one of the easiest places to start.”
Via The Guardian