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Clean Power oil subsidies congress

Published on March 30th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

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47 US Senators Support Oil Subsidies, but Vote to Kill Wind Energy Jobs

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March 30th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
 
 
The sad state of US politics today — health-destroying, polluting oil companies making records profits get to keep $4 billion a year in subsidies (subsidies they’ve been getting for generations), while 47 senators who support that vote against the clean-energy, job-creating wind energy industry. Ugh… Here’s more from Richard Caperton of the Center for American Progress, via Climate Progress:

Yesterday, 47 United States Senators voted to kill 37,000 American jobs, while giving $24 billion in tax breaks to big oil companies. It’s clear where these Senators’ loyalties lie: They would rather give handouts to the dirty energy of the past rather than invest in the clean energy of the future.

In a largely party-line 51-47 vote (four Democrats side with Big Oil, and two Republicans side with clean energy), the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to move forward on the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

This bill would do two things: End several egregious subsidies to big oil companies, while extending industry-supporting incentives for clean energy. Among those incentives is the critical Production Tax Credit, which encourages investment in wind energy. As we’ve reported before, raising taxes on the emerging wind power industry by failing to extend this credit will kill 37,000 jobs. Indeed, we’ve already seen layoffs as manufacturing companies prepare for the worst.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), giving a perfect description of why the PTC should be extended, from a floor speech on Wednesday:

I’ve championed the wind energy tax credit as a way to provide a level playing field for a very clean, renewable resource. As a result, it has become – as a result, wind energy has become more efficient and cost-effective.  The cost of wind energy has declined by 90% since the 1980’s.  Wind has accounted for 35% of all new American electric generation in the last five years.  Wind has already provided 20% of the electric generation in my state of Iowa.  It supports as many as 5,000 good-paying jobs in our state.  As a result of the tax incentive, the wind energy has actually created new manufacturing jobs in the United States.  Today 60% of the wind turbines’ value is now produced in the United States, compared with just 25% six years ago.  There are now 400 facilities building wind components in 43 states.  That is why a bill in the House of Representatives to extend the wind energy production tax credit has 80 cosponsors, including 18 Republicans.

If we fail to extend the incentive, thousands of jobs will be lost in wind manufacturing industry.  Unemployment remains high at 8.30%.  Why would Congress exacerbate the unemployment in our country by failing to extend this successful incentive?

But, if you think this sounds like someone who would actually vote to extend the PTC, you’d be wrong. Grassley ignored his very own logic and revealed his true loyalties: Big Oil over clean energy.

This nonsense was bipartisan, too. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) had this to say about the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act:

My vote today was based largely on concerns over extending tax credits for a number of renewable technologies. Government should avoid picking winners and losers, and should allow the marketplace to work.

Wrap your head around that for a second.  Senator Webb had two choices: Support Big Oil, or support clean energy. For all his tortured reasoning about allowing the marketplace to work, Webb can’t deny that he voted for $24 billion in tax subsidies to Big Oil companies.

Fortunately, former Virginia governor Tim Kaine – who’s running to replace Webb – has a much more reasonable view on this. As he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “By rejecting the effort to repeal billions in taxpayer funded giveaways to profitable oil companies, Republicans have again sided with special interests at the expense of Americans…. These subsidies, which have been consistently supported by my opponent George Allen, are unnecessary for the big five oil companies to turn a profit and do nothing to significantly lower the price of gas that Virginians pay when they fill up their tank…. Instead, today’s vote just ensures all Americans are double charged by the richest oil companies – once in their pocketbook at the pump, and again in their tax bill each year.”

Yesterday’s vote is an ominous sign about where the wind industry stands.  It’s the second time in recent weeks that the Senate has voted against the PTC. On March 13, 49 Senators voted against clean energy. After that vote, we heard that some senators voted against it because the bill didn’t contain a way to pay for extending the tax credits. The Menendez bill addressed this concern by repealing subsidies to Big Oil, but only two more senators voted to support clean energy.

It’s clear that this is an uphill fight, and that elected leaders who have previously expressed support for clean energy – like Senator Grassley – need to be held to their word.

Richard W. Caperton is Director of Clean Energy Investment at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • http://www.facebook.com/reasonable.power Reasonable Power

    I was looking at your pages on the environment.

    The state of Maryland is trying to help. They passed a law that directly forces the electric company, with conditions, to pay homeowners for the electric that the homeowners send into the grid from a wind powered generator or other source.

    That can be over $10,000 per year.

    See: http://www.reasonablepower.com/1/MD_Net_Energy_Metering_2011.htm

    What is your state doing to help the environment?

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Good deal. :D

  • Pingback: Romney shows disturbing lack of understanding of capitalism

  • AnnieKH2007

    How about names of those 47 please

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Democrats who joined the Republicans included Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jim Webb (D-VA). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) broke ranks and voted to cut the tax breaks.

      Otherwise, was all party-line.

  • http://www.energyquicksand.com/ Edward Kerr

    {Instead, today’s vote just ensures all Americans are double charged by the richest oil companies – once in their pocketbook at the pump, and again in their tax bill each year.”}

    I fear that what we would see if the “oil subsidies” were eliminated it would be a short term problem but a long term benefit for consumers. A mixed blessing to be sure.

    I suspect that prices at the pump would rise dramatically in short order (reflecting the true cost of oil). There would be screaming and finger pointing. These oil giants would simply refuse to “loose profits”. They would simply pass the cost to consumers while finding some scapegoat to blame.

    In the longer run it would show the cost of renewables to be the bargain that they are thus giving impetus to investing in them (renewables). I think that this is the reason why the Senate won’t do the right thing and listen to their constituents. They will protect both the long and short term interests of the people who buy their votes. Of course, at the expense of all of us. What’s really maddening is that they just might delay the day that fossil oil dies as our “go to” liquid fuel long enough for the damage to the ecosystem to be unrepairable. Civilization hangs in the balance and these frauds have their hand on the tiller. Scares me to death.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      thing is, these companies are sitting on massive piles of cash. and cutting subsidies should have absolutely no effect on prices.

  • Mowens325

    maybe if green energy would stop filing for bankruptcy as soon as their federal loan check clears, i’d have just a little bit more faith in them

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      A very small % of the companies which have received such loans have filed. Overall, the program has been deemed a success by independent studies. The problem is you are getting unbalanced news on the matter from folks with an agenda.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Like any maturing industry there are “shake-out” times when the most capable grow large and the less capable go under.

      Take a look at the computer industry and the number of start-ups which did not survive. You have no faith in computers?

      Like Zach suggests, improve your information sources. There are people who really don’t want renewable energy to replace their fossil fuel interests and they’ll say just about anything to muddy the water….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508766633 Whooty Richardson

    Money changes everything!

  • Davisrealty1958

    The power of Big Oil comes mostly from Republicans who get their power from the religious right, the NRA and needless to say, Corporate America.

    What about religious tolerance? What about the future or your Country? The war is over NRA, big business won because. the pen is more powerful than that AK-47 you own. Go figure.

  • ThomasGerke

    Allowing corporations to profit from business models that externalize costs and activly harm people, entire industries and property across the country is the biggest subsidy in history. Even if there were no direct & indirect subsidies, the fossil & nuclear energy system has always enjoyed this exclusive privilige.

    Supporting the introduction of clean & sustainable energy sources is thereby by definition not a subsidy. It’s a political action that aims at ending a more than 100 years long subsidy process that continues to be paid for with the health of people, losses in forestry, argriculture & fishing, damages to buildings, increased cost in high-tec manufacturing and so on so on…

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      100% agree. Thanks. Clearly written.

  • ECMeg

    Wind is destructive and the wind turbines, 450 feet tall, are destroying our public lands and endangering health of those who live nearby. We have some in our area and more planned – they even want to put them on a major fault in an area known for liquefaction – deadly if they fall. People who live nearby have headaches, hearing problems, ringing in the ears. The turbines slaughter eagles, hawks, owls, bats, and smaller birds. They’re stealing OUR public lands, even beautiful wilderness areas and turning them into industrial wind facilities. This is wrong. SOLAR ON OUR ROOFTOPS is the answer – invest in rooftop solar not big energy companies!

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Wind is destructive and the wind turbines, 450 feet tall, are destroying our public lands and endangering health of those who live nearby.”

      Furnish proof.

      “People who live nearby have headaches, hearing problems, ringing in the ears.”

      Furnish proof.

      ” The turbines slaughter eagles, hawks, owls, bats, and smaller birds.”

      While there are some small numbers of birds and bats killed by wind turbines it is a minor problem. If you think it a large, important problem then furnish proof.

      “They’re stealing OUR public lands, even beautiful wilderness areas and turning them into industrial wind facilities.”

      Furnish proof. I especially want to see that a single turbine has been installed in a wilderness area.

      Your claims stink to the high heavens.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Dude, you have to be kidding me — wind turbines are probably thousands times less harmful than traditional power options. Solar won’t do it alone — we need a mix of good clean energy options, and wind is one of the best and cleanest. In some cases, it is actually a better option than solar.

    • Joe

      Wow?

  • Bob_Wallace

    oz house – Restarting the thread.

    Disqus uses a lot of offset with their nesting layout. After a while the columns get so narrow that comments are hard to read. Currently this site is set at ’5′, after the 5th (I think) comment in a thread the Reply button no longer shows up.

    Two options, move up one level and hit Reply (as you did) or start a new thread (as I just did).

    “I am against the continual subsidies.I think seed money to get something off the ground is different to a continual subsidy.

    In general, I agree. I can imagine that there might be some technologies/endeavors that might provide enough common good, yet be unable to support themselves, that we might wish to support forever.

    “Green tech needs R&D; money and is not ready for the seed money to launch.”

    This is clearly incorrect. Wind has been receiving support for over 30 years and is now just about at the point at which it can stand on its own. The wind industry has said that they need roughly three more years in order to get all the needed infrastructure in place to make wind a low price provider.

    Solar has fallen from >$50/W to <$1/W because a market has been created that allowed for efficient factories to be built. You do not build factories during R&D.

    Furthermore R&D does not create efficient, low priced markets. It takes building a technology to a level at which manufacturing, installation and supply streams are mature enough to produce at a competitive price.

    You want us to suffer fewer economic crises in the future? One big help would be if we were to free our economy from getting jacked around by foreign oil sources. Another would be to cut our very high expenditure for oil. Another would be to greatly cut the amount of money we spend on the externalities of fossil fuels.

    What we are spending on renewable tech is chicken feed. What we stand to earn is enormous.

    • RobS

      Oz_house, it’s all well and good to say nothing should be subsidised in an ideal world, the reality is wedon’t live in an ideal world we live in this world. So given that the point of the article is that the century old oil subsidies are going to continue for the foreseeable future do you still oppose ongoing subsidies for renewables or would continuing renewable subsidies even in the face of continued fossil fuel subsidies constitutes picking a winner.

  • oz_house

    I personally don’t think there should be any subsidies for oil, wind, gas, nuclear, solar or any other form of electricity. That way, if wind/solar or other forms of alternative energy become more efficient than fossil fuels, it will be painfully obvious and people in the marketplace would be committing financial suicide by not investing in it. That is how an actual free market is supposed to work. You hear a lot of talk from republicans and democrats for that matter on free markets – but it’s just all political BS. This is anything but a free market.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      And what do you think about the century or so of subsidies fossil fuels have gotten and the decades of subsidies nukes have gotten? Should renewables not get a little support at the beginning of their lives to put them on even footing?

      Also, what do you think about externalities (a form of subsidies), such as the health externalities of coal and oil? The ‘free market’ is only theoretical, bcs some of its main assumption don’t exist in reality (free information available to all and no externalities, for example)? It’s the govt’s role to make the market more ‘free’ by addressing externalities — making companies internalize them as they ideally should.

      Thoughts?

      • oz_house

        And what do you think about the century or so of subsidies fossil fuels have gotten and the decades of subsidies nukes have gotten?

        Yes that was and is wrong – But two wrongs don’t make a right.

        Should renewables not get a little support at the beginning of their lives to put them on even footing?

        If you took away all the subsidies, then all the technologies would be on an even footing. Giving subsidies only picks winners and losers – plus it gives crooks a big incentive to use government to walk away with vast sums of taxpayer $$$. Corporations get a taxpayer funded blank cheque and they write themselves lots of zero’s. Take a look at Boeing. They were charging $1600 for tiny $10 parts, why – because taxpayers are picking up the tab. Lets see how many zero’s we can get away with…as far as I know, they are still doing it despite their crimes coming out into the open.

        http://www.pogo.org/resources/national-security/dod-ig-report-on-audit-of-boeing-spare-parts-contracts.html

        You will need to give me some more detail on the externalities of which you speak of – as for the free information point, I never said it was a great idea for the corporatocracy to be able to patent/copyright every little thing under the sun and lock it down practically forever. It destroys innovation. That has nothing to do with a free market, that is the oligarchy/corporatocracy using government they bought to make laws/rules that suit them. When I say “free market” please don’t think I am using the term the same way a republican BS artist would.

        It’s the govt’s role to make the market more ‘free’ by addressing externalities –

        I am not entirely against government regulation, there needs to be some sensible regulation – not 500,000 page bills that no politician could even read before they vote on it as we see now. The men behind the curtain are using the government they have bought to protect their interests and their corporatocracy. When John Rockefeller said competition is a sin, I really don’t think he was joking. I think there is a legitimate argument that the government is too big, does control too much. You cannot even setup a lemonade stand with the police state/big daddy government shutting you down. You would be taking money away from Sprite and Coke etc….they cannot have that. Again, please don’t think I am using that the same way a republican would. They take some truth and they wrap it in lies – the same technique is used by democrats. It’s an Orwellian world.

        Capitalism has flaws – one being the incentive to produce crap products so they fail early and must be purchased over and over again which creates demand for more products and more jobs. But socialism also has flaws, one being that it is not voluntary. When our money is stolen by the men behind the curtain using the government they control, we have no opt out. If someone supports bombing nations or oil subsidies? Fine, write a cheque. But extend me the same courtesy to NOT write a cheque for those activities.

        I also don’t buy the line that everything bad in America is the republicans fault and the democrats just want a wonderful world, if only those nasty republicans would let them. This is utter bollocks. They are two Mafia families at a craps table. Threaten their craps table and see how the two are really one. On issues that matter to the oligarchy, there is not a dimes difference and that is why things like foreign policy NEVER changes no matter what government comes into power…the proles can argue about things like gay rights forever.

        It’s a club and we are not invited. It does not matter if you are in Australia, America, Canada, England etc it is the same game…look at Sweden, they have just been caught selling arms to Saudi Arabia. It is a club mate, and they will go to any lengths to keep us out of it. Government does not work for the people. That is a con job.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “”And what do you think about the century or so of subsidies fossil fuels have gotten and the decades of subsidies nukes have gotten?””

          “Yes that was and is wrong – But two wrongs don’t make a right.”

          I highly disagree.

          Had we not supported the coal industry by using public money to help build the railroads and to build the electric grid much of the country would have not received electricity and our industries would not have been built.

          We’ve learned why we should quit using coal and other fossil fuels so now we need to support emerging technologies which allow us to maintain our current standard of living as we abandon dirty energy technologies.

          • oz_house

            comparing yesterday with today is comparing apples and oranges – for starters, a fascist corporatocracy had not bought out the government yet. When they were building the railroads they got tenders to build for the government and after their job was done, it was bye bye. That is a bit different to non stop subsidies – which is what I am talking about. And I think it is an incorrect assumption to say that things won’t be invented or built without government doing it – especially invented. If the option is there for a private company to get the government to pay for stuff, they will take it – but if the venture is actually viable, they will do it anyway – without the government.

            We really have to be careful about throwing money down the toilet. The more we throw it down the toilet, the more we need to borrow, the more we are taxed and the more the bankers laugh all the way to the ….bank.

            Right now, green technologies are not truly viable solutions, one day they will be but you cannot force a technology into existence, no matter how much money you throw at it. A lot of people say the sky is falling down and we have no time to come up with these new technologies – quick give us your money!!! I don’t believe that fear mongering. Al Gore is as much of a lying scumbag as George Bush. Take a look at his mansions and how green that fraudster hypocrite actually lives. He was a lying scumbag when he was a politician and he is a lying scumbag now.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “comparing yesterday with today is comparing apples and oranges – for starters, a fascist corporatocracy had not bought out the government yet. When they were building the railroads they got tenders to build for the government and after their job was done, it was bye bye ”

            Read some history….

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            I think i see where you are getting off on this one — cleantech is subsidies have been hugely successful. Solar energy costs have decreased about 50 times in the past couple decades, and continue to decrease at an astounding rate, largely bcs of these subsidies. It is now cost-competitive in many places, but not in most in the US yet — still needs a little help. Wind costs have been cut about 90% since the early 2000s, largely because of govt support. That should continue for at least a few more years to help the industry mature a little more.

            Solar and wind are very viable in many places. But they still deserve more subsidies and the market still needs to be balanced out/corrected.

            If you are concerned about individual company failures, you are just not looking at or aware of the bigger picture. But that’s how the corporate media and fossil fuel trolls across the internet would like you to be.

          • oz_house

            I have read plenty, not saying I know everything – but here is my understanding of corporations at the time –

            * Corporate charters (licenses to exist) were granted for a limited time and could be revoked promptly for violating laws.

            * Corporations could engage only in activities necessary to fulfill their chartered purpose.

            * Corporations could not own stock in other corporations nor own any property that was not essential to fulfilling their chartered purpose.

            * Corporations were often terminated if they exceeded their authority or caused public harm.

            * Owners and managers were responsible for criminal acts committed on the job.

            * Corporations could not make any political or charitable contributions nor spend money to influence law-making.

          • oz_house

            and reading some history on US railroads ( I am australian, do you expect me to know everything about US railroads? History is a broad topic) I find – Shares were sold to fund the construction of the B&O Railroad. In only 12 days, the company had raised over $4,000,000.

            That is an example of when something is viable, a company will do it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            US railroad companies were given vast amounts of federal land. They built their tracks on part and sold other parts off to raise money to finance those tracks.

            Those railways served multiple purposes, hauling coal from mine to furnace was one of those functions.

            We’re talking about subsidies.

            We, in the past, have spent significant money to assist coal, oil, and nuclear energy to get to the point at which they furnished energy and were adequately profitable to attract enough private investment to stand on their own. (Of course, while being profitable, they are still getting public assistance.)

            The US has a significant problem with corporations, but that’s a different discussion.

          • oz_house

            For some reason, the site does not allow me to reply to your newer comments – there is no reply button, that is why I keep replying to this comment –

            I am against the continual subsidies.I think seed money to get something off the ground is different to a continual subsidy.

            Green tech needs R&D money and is not ready for the seed money to launch.

            Railroads were viable and ready.

            Why do I care? because if you guys have an economic crisis, we do. When you go to war, we go to war with you. If you go bankrupt a whole lot of countries are going to be in big trouble.

            The corporatocracy is relevant in the discussion because there is fraud and corruption in every sector – including green tech. If we all try to implement alternative energy too early, dodgy companies are going to rip us off. America is not really in a position to get ripped off any more. It has been gutted.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look for new start…

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            I think i see where you are getting off on this one — cleantech is subsidies have been hugely successful. Solar energy costs have decreased about 50 times in the past couple decades, and continue to decrease at an astounding rate, largely bcs of these subsidies. It is now cost-competitive in many places, but not in most in the US yet — still needs a little help. Wind costs have been cut about 90% since the early 2000s, largely because of govt support. That should continue for at least a few more years to help the industry mature a little more.

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          I don’t think it’s wrong at all to subsidize clean energy. As Thomas expressed above, and I think I did as well, there are inherent market failures in dirty energy. Those need to be addressed by subsidizing clean energy or pricing dirty energy better.

          Additionally, dirty energy has received its subsidies. There is no equal footing or balanced free market until that is corrected. In this case, two ‘negatives’ make a ‘positive’ — simple math.

          I’m not discussing Boeing here, I’m discussing clean energy.

          Health costs of dirty energy range are in the hundreds of billions of http://cleantechnica.com/2012/04/02/costs-of-clean-energy-fossil-fuels/dollars(). This is only health costs/externalities. There are also grid costs and national security costs not addressed in those studies.

          There are just a few important clean energy subsidies. They do not total 500,000 pages. As for other regulations and subsidies, I think they should be looked at carefully, and I’m not an expert in every arena, so I won’t weigh in.

          I agree, there is way too much corporate influence of politics and policies. This is why oil subsidies in place for generations continue and clean energy subsidies to balance out the market are killed or constantly
          threatened. The whole system needs fixed, but until that happens, I will
          fight for proper policies (while also fighting for a systemic fix).

          Believe me, I think many Democrat politicians are also corrupt and do not
          serve the country. But on this important matter of clean energy, they
          follow a party line more or less, and that is all I’m addressing here.

          Our system is almost completely bought, and that needs addressed as much as
          anything — completely agree.

          • oz_house

            You asked about 100 years worth of ongoing subsides – Thomas took my 2 wrongs don’t make a right comment reply out of context. I am not against clean energy bro. When I said I oppose subsides, I meant the ongoing subsidies.

            Infrastructure building/RnD for the nation is different. But I think a lot of this money is not being spent wisely. Typical idiotic government.

            If a company cannot survive without ongoing subsidies then it is not viable. If you’re talking about individual companies, a fair few are going bankrupt and taking a crap load of tax dollars with them and I think it is a mix of they are not viable yet – and crooks trying to get at that taxpayer funded cheque book. Just because somebody gets involved in green tech does not make them an angel.

            I still do think when cleaner energy becomes more efficient, the market will naturally shift in that direction because it will be forced – and the sky is not falling down so we have the time. There are some fear mongers out there like – Prince Charles who say ridiculous things like we have 6 months – It is just as bad as Republicans who want to teach intelligent design.

            Some advances in battery tech may go a long way too. When I said 500,000 I wasn’t talking about green energy bills in particular and it was an exaggeration, but there are many bills that are so huge no congressmen could read them. Which is ridiculous.

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Yeah, there are bad apples in every batch. Overall, cleantech investments by the US govt would make a private investor proud. But the media loves to focus on the few failures. You invest in tons of companies, some are going to be failures, esp in a fast-growing (the fastest), fast-changing sector.
            Glad to see you were referencing the ongoing oil subsidies. It’s insane — extremely profitable companies getting billions every year.

            The sky isn’t falling, but we are fast-approaching a level of climate change that will put things out of our hands, if we haven’t already, and we are already seeing record disasters that cause billions of dollars in destruction and who knows how many deaths. We need to get on it and off the fossil fuel crackpipe.

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