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Statements On Obama Budget From NRDC, CAP, & SEIA

The professional policy wonks have their statements out on Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget plan. Below are statements from three groups I greatly respect.

From Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

“President Obama’s budget once again calls for eliminating billions of dollars in taxpayer handouts to the dirty energy industry of the past, which it doesn’t need, and harms our health and planet. Looking to a clean energy future, his budget expands investments in wind and solar that will create jobs and grow our made-in-America-energy.

“Together, ending oil subsidies and boosting clean energy are important steps that will help address the destructive impacts we’re seeing from climate change.”

From Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):

“America’s solar industry welcomes President Obama’s continued support. We praise the President for emphasizing that a transition to sustainable energy sources is vital—and that the U.S. must lead it. Solar is the fastest-growing clean energy technology available today. It is not only powering our nation, it is an engine of economic growth. The number of U.S. solar jobs has jumped 13.2 percent in the last year alone, and doubled over the last three years.

“Since 2008, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses and military bases has grown by more than 600 percent—from 1,100 megawatts to more than 7,700 megawatts today. Over the next four years, solar will grow to be our nation’s largest new source of energy.

“We are tremendously grateful to the President for his leadership and efforts in bringing about increased renewable energy deployment, and we urge Congress to work with the Administration to pass and implement sensible energy policy.

“SEIA also encourages the President and Congress to make accelerated renewable energy adoption goals a reality. A critically-important step in that direction is maintaining the Investment Tax Credit that has helped U.S.  consumers and businesses access solar at a much lower cost, by allowing solar to compete more fairly with other energy sources. We are also calling on the government to streamline federal solar permitting processes as an important way to help reduce our nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign energy supplies, and we urge federal agencies to lead by example by increasing their use of solar.”

From Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress:

President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 would eliminate $39 billion of special tax breaks for Big Oil companies over the next decade as part of comprehensive business tax reform. These companies earned billions of dollars in recent years due to high oil and gasoline prices and do not need additional support from taxpayers.

These tax breaks emerged over the past 100 years to help the then-nascent industry develop, and they relieved the oil and gas industry of $466 billion in tax payments to the federal treasury between 1918 through 2009, according to DBL Investors. Now that the oil and gas industry is fully developed and mature, President Obama’s budget would end this century of largesse.

The five largest oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — earned a combined total of $255 billion in 2011 and 2012, largely a result of higher oil prices. Meanwhile, these companies are producing less oil, have $72 billion in cash reserves, and are using one-quarter of their profits to buy back their own stock to enrich their largest shareholders (see Table 1). Reuters reported last year that Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil — the three largest American oil companies — paid half or less of the standard corporate tax rate. President Obama’s budget recognizes that oil companies no longer need tax relief.

In contrast, the House of Representatives would continue to provide tax subsidies for one of the richest industries in the world. It passed an FY 2014 budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) that retains these existing special tax preferences and provides yet another tax break on top of them. What’s more, the House budget cuts the corporate tax rate by nearly one-third, which would provide more than $2 billionannually in additional tax relief to the five largest oil companies.

The American Petroleum Institute, or API, serves as Big Oil’s lobbying arm and is spending tens of millions of dollars on ads and lobbying to pressure Congress to retain these special tax breaks. API equates eliminating special tax breaks with tax increases, when in actuality such legislation would simply make Big Oil pay its fair share of taxes. Economists recognize that tax breaks are simply federal government spending through the tax code, which also contributes to the budget deficit.

Donald Marron, the director of the independent nonpartisan Washington research group Tax Policy Center, explains that “a great deal of government spending is hidden in the federal tax code in the form of deductions, credits, and other preferences — preferences that seem like they let taxpayers keep their own money, but are actually spending in disguise.”

Many influential conservatives also understand that tax expenditures have the same budgetary impact as direct government expenditures. Martin Feldstein, for instance, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, notes that tax expenditures are “those features of the tax code that are a substitute for direct government spending.” And in 2010 Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the current chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, observed that:

… we must admit that not all of that spending has been through increased appropriations or expanded entitlements; much of it has been through the back-door proliferation of “tax expenditures” — provisions that technically reduce someone’s tax liability, but that in reality amount to spending through the tax code.

The House-passed Ryan budget would keep existing special tax breaks and give Big Oil additional tax cuts, while also slicing vital middle-class programs, including education, science, and infrastructure. Meanwhile, President Obama’s proposal to eliminate $40 billion of special tax breaks for Big Oil as part of comprehensive business tax reform would make the tax code more fair.

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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