As much as I like to rag on members of our dear Congress, and everyone else on the Hill (except Kara, who is awesome), there are those moments when I’m reminded that not everyone we’ve elected is awful.
In the midst of continued flapping about the economy and debt reduction, the voice of Bernie Sanders seems to be resonating with me as someone who might be on the right track. Penning this editorial for The Huffington Post, Sanders (D-VT) points out some very critical facts about our energy economy that not every American is aware of. We’ve discussed them here on Spinach before, but what Sanders is talking about are the enormous tax breaks and subsidies that are offered to fossil fuel companies. While more Republicans are fighting to end government assistance to renewable energy in the wake of the Solyndra disaster, it doesn’t seem like many people are aware of – or making noise about – the massive amount of subsidization that goes towards fossil fuel corporations.
For those of you who didn’t read the past posts, or need a refreshed, I’ll provide this image as a brief summary:
The argument for these subsidies tends to be that ending them will just drive up prices for consumers, making it worse for Average Joe and Average Jane. Proponents of fossil fuel subsidies argue that cheap energy helps the average consumer. Often, they further justify assisting corporations with the so-called “trickle down” effect – the idea that the big guys at the top are a critical part of the economy and create jobs for the rest of us.
My objection to that is as follows: first of all, consumers are already paying that higher price at the pump and in their energy bills. It’s just flowing from them, to the government, and THEN to the oil company rather than taking a direct route.
Second, energy consumption is, at the end of the day, a choice. While I do understand that there are some people who live in cities which aren’t very friendly to those without a car, that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do. We actually don’t need unlimited energy to live. Want to reduce your energy bills? Maybe make it a point to turn off the lights, unplug appliances that aren’t in use, or open a window when it’s only moderately warm instead of using the A.C. Walk, bike, or take public transportation to work. Carpool with a neighbor. Heck, maybe if gas was pricier, there would be enough demand for bike lanes and public transit that more cities would invest. Clearly it’s not going to save the problem overnight, but the fact of the matter is that most of us could use to be a little more conscientious of how much we use. Unlimited consumption of energy for a very low cost is not a human right – it’s a privilege that too many take for granted.
Then, there’s the fact that government should be helping people, and not profits. Or, as Senator Sanders puts it:
It is immoral that some in Congress advocate savage cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security while those same people vote to preserve billions in tax breaks for Exxon Mobil which is the most profitable corporation in America. It is equally obscene that as those members of Congress fight to continue never-ending fossil fuel subsidies worth tens of billions, they are working overtime to deny a one year extension for key sustainable energy incentives for the emerging wind and solar industries. Instead of passing strong legislation to help reverse global warming, Congress continues the giveaways to the 200-year-old fossil fuel industry even as that industry’s carbon pollution wreaks devastation on our planet. Enough is enough.
Truly, he has a point. Also in his article: the fact that B.P. actually claimed a tax deduction for the cost of the cleanup efforts they had to undertake in the wake of Deepwater Horizon, even though it was their fault, and the fact that certain corporate tax deductions available to fossil fuel investors are not available for clean energy.
The best news? He’s doing something about it. Sanders has introduced a bill that would end these subsidies, and is trying to get the word out and build momentum. Interested in supporting? Check it out here.