How is it that renewable energy producers struggle to renew expiring, and already expired, tax breaks and other funding credits in Congress, while the Senate overwhelmingly refuses to cut Big Oil’s $35 billion in taxpayer subsidies? Something to ponder as BP’s CEO faces withering fire for BP’s catastrophic spill in a House Committee hearing Thursday.
Congressional Quarterly (subscription barrier) rounds up the shaky status of the credits needed to keep clean energy development on track, noting that the obvious source of funding would be cuts in the oil industry’s lavish, long-running tax deductions, including billions in foregone royalties due to taxpayers:
“Financing remains our biggest challenge” as the economy recovers
slowly, said Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy
Industries Association, which is pressing Congress to renew a variety
of loan, grant and tax credit programs for renewable energy development
and manufacturing that were part of the 2009 stimulus law (PL 111-5). Extending the programs is a priority for the Obama administration, as well as for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a Finance Committee member, and other lawmakers.
With Senate Democrats caucusing Thursday on energy policy, and BP executives testifying on Capitol Hill about the <Gulf> Coast <oil> <spill>,
a coalition of nine renewable energy industry groups sent a letter to
Senate leaders calling for action on expiring laws benefiting renewable
fuel production and for broader certainty in federal policy.
“Many of the jobs these industries support could be lost permanently
to other countries,” the groups wrote. “Many renewable manufacturers
have almost ceased receiving orders because of the uncertainty of a
The letter follows a bipartisan 35-61 vote in the Senate, rejecting a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to pull all of Big Oil’s big breaks–which are both long-term and seemingly immutable. Now, of course, U.S. taxpayers–not oil producers–will also be on the hook for unemployment payments to rig workers, tourism employees and fishing-related workers whose jobs have been lost to the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent moratorium on more drilling of the type that caused the catastrophe.
Even if the Senate relents enough to pay for reneweable energy funds with just a wee bit of the Big Oil subsidies, the priorities couldn’t be more backward. Of course, it’s only the logic that’s backward. Follow the money instead: Just the top five oil companies: Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron and Conoco, have spent nearly $16 million just on lobbying this year, according to OpenSecrets.org. BP accounts for $3.3 million of the total. That’s on top of millions in direct federal campaign contributions from the oil industry in the current election cycle.