WASHINGTON, DC, May 10, 2012 (ENS) – Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, and Congressmen Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, today introduced a legislation to end billions of dollars in subsidies for the oil, gas and coal industries.
The Sanders-Ellison End Polluter Welfare bill abolishes federal policies making Americans taxpayers pay for fossil fuel company investments. Under current law, more than $110 billion in federal subsidies would go to the oil, coal and gas industries in the coming decade.
“We are here today not just to announce new legislation, but to send a message that it is time to end the absurdity of taxpayers providing massive subsidies to hugely profitable fossil fuel corporations,” Senator Sanders told a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.
From left: Ryan Alexander, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Keith Ellison, Brent Blackwelder and Bill McKibben at a news conference on Capitol Hill, May 10, 2012 (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
“In these difficult economic times, it is imperative that we support the taxpayers of this country and not the fossil fuel industry – one of the most powerful special interests in the world,” Sanders said.
“When we have a $15.6 trillion national debt, we cannot afford it,” he said. “When the five largest oil companies have made over $1 trillion in profits in the last decade, they don’t need it. When some of these same polluters have, in a given year, paid zero in federal income taxes and actually received IRS rebate checks worth millions, they don’t deserve it. When fossil fuels are the number one source of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, creating a planetary crisis of global warming that is already causing devastating extreme weather disturbances, we can’t ignore it.”
“Big oil companies alone make more than $300 million every day but the oil, gas, and coal industries still have their hands in the taxpayer’s pocket,” said Representative Ellison.
“Why should Americans prop up these companies with tax dollars and have to pay ridiculous fuel prices?” he asked.
Sanders said the legislation he introduced in the Senate and Ellison introduced in the House ends all tax breaks, special financing arrangements, and the federal research and development funding for these industries.
“We reform royalties to ensure that fossil fuel corporations pay their fair share. We ensure that never again can a company like BP take a tax deduction for money it spent cleaning up the disaster that it caused in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Sanders. “And we close the loophole that lets tar sands oil pipeline operators avoid paying the oil spill clean-up tax.”
“For all of us who understand global warming is real, and understand that the fossil fuel industry has led a decades-long smear campaign against climate science and scientists,” he said, “we know that the fossil fuel industry is making huge profits at the expense of our children and grandchildren and the future of our planet.”
Environmentalists were pleased with the measure. Brent Blackwelder from Friends of the Earth, Ryan Alexander from Taxpayers for Common Sense, and Bill McKibben, founder of the climate action advocacy group 350.org, joined the lawmakers at the news conference.
Alexander said, “The time to end these massive giveaways is now. Big oil raked in more than $150 billion in profits last year. Gas prices are hovering near $4/gallon. The end to record earnings is nowhere in sight. Yet despite this, taxpayers continue to give tax breaks, royalty relief, and other lucrative subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.”
“Congress has created a Gordian knot of energy subsidies and it’s time we cut it,” said Alexander. “We must end the market distorting and illogical set of taxpayer handouts across the energy sectors, level the playing field, and let the most efficient and competitive technologies thrive.”
“Almost everyone in the country opposes handing cash over to big oil, big coal, and big gas – the numbers are in the 70% range among Republicans, Independents, and Democrats,” blogged Jamie Henn of 350.org. “That means that we’ll be working to get all sorts of people on board with this fight, maybe even that cranky Unkle of yours who doesn’t believe in global warming but wants to cut government spending.”
Henn said 350.org would mount a major grassroots campaign to support the legislation. “We know that if we confine this effort to Capitol Hill, the fossil fuel industry will just drown us in dollars – they could spend $100 billion fighting this thing and still come out on top. So, we’re going to have to find other currencies to work in: our creativity, energy, and grassroots organizing power. This needs to be a people’s bill through and through.”
Greenpeace legislative analyst Kyle Ash said, “Big polluters will rail against this bill. They pay little or no income tax, but they spend big to convince policymakers to keep coddling them.”
“The Sanders and Ellison legislation will remove about $10 billion per year in federal subsidies for the coal, oil, and gas industry,” said Ash. “This covers the entire budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, who will still have to deal with their mess.”
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