‘Green Scissors’ Proposes Hundreds of Billions in Cuts to Federal Giveaways

WASHINGTON, DC, August 24, 2011 (ENS) – Eliminating $380 billion in subsidies to industries that damage the environment could go a long way toward resolving U.S. budget challenges, a coalition of groups from across the political spectrum said today in a new report.

The report, “Green Scissors 2011,” identifies cuts to “wasteful spending that harms the environment,” that would save $380 billion over five years, the groups said in a statement.

That amounts to about a quarter of the savings the new congressional Super Committee has been charged with achieving, in half the time, the groups point out. “The place to start trimming government spending is where Congress is putting money into the pockets of polluters,” they say.

Bureau of Land Management Timber Sale marker near Garnet, Montana (Photo by Heather Andrews)

The groups propose cutting many fossil fuel, nuclear and alternative energy subsidies. Other targets include giveaways of publicly-owned timber, precious metals, oil and natural gas; “poorly conceived” road projects; and a host of “questionable” water projects planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“These common sense cuts represent the lowest of the low hanging budgetary fruit,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, one of the four groups that wrote the report.

“Lawmakers across the political spectrum should be scrambling to eliminate these examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary tax breaks that are squandering our precious tax dollars while the nation is staring into a chasm of debt,” Alexander said.

The three other organizations behind Green Scissors 2011 are the environmental group Friends of the Earth, consumer watchdog Public Citizen and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute.

Oil rig and support vessel in the Gulf of Mexico (Photo by Seth McCall)

“While all four groups have different missions, histories, goals and ideas about the role of government,” the groups write in the report, “we all agree that we can begin to overcome our nation’s budgetary and environmental woes by tackling spending that is not only wasteful but environmentally harmful.”

“We can go a long way toward solving our nation’s budget problems by cutting spending that harms the environment, and this report provides the Super Committee with a road map,” said Friends of the Earth climate and energy tax analyst Ben Schreiber. “At a time of great polarization, Super Committee members can and should find common ground by ending wasteful polluter giveaways.”

“In addition, we need to ensure that we receive a fair return on government assets,” the report states.

“From the more than a century old 1872 Mining Law that gives away precious metals – like gold and copper – on federal lands for free, to $53 billion in lost oil and gas revenues from royalty-free leases in federal waters granted in the late 1990s, to the $6 billion per year ethanol tax credit, there are dozens of reforms that can return hundreds of billions to taxpayers while helping to address our nation’s top environmental priorities,” says the report.

“The Green Scissors report documents the breadth and depth of damage that government spending does to our environment,” said Heartland Institute Vice President Eli Lehrer. “Cutting government in the right places can make for a cleaner, healthier environment.”

As proposed in the report, the federal government could end these programs and save the United States:

  • $72 billion for general revenue transfers to the Highway Trust Fund
  • $30 billion for crop insurance
  • $4.82 billion for oil and gas royalty relief

“At a time when working families are expected to belt-tighten, so too must wasteful public investments in mature, polluting technologies,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “For too long lobbyists kept these undeserving programs and tax preferences for the fossil fuel and nuclear industry funded.”

The programs and policies identified in the report not only “cost Americans up front, but also create additional financial liabilities down the road and threaten our nation’s fragile land, air and water,” the groups warn.

“The 2011 Green Scissors Report is a reminder that it’s time for Congress to have a serious, rational discussion about cutting the budget,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. “With painful budget cuts already under discussion that will require American families to make sacrifices, it is only fair, for example, that we also stop the handouts to our richest oil companies.”

“The Green Scissors report is full of recommendations that will help us be good stewards of the environment while also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Congressman Tom Petri, a Wisconsin Republican. “While we won’t all agree on every proposed cut, the report’s recommendations are a good place to start as we look for ways to put our nation on a more sustainable fiscal path.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.

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