The Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) along with their political allies like Mitt Romney are waging war against sustainable energy and efforts to transform our energy system and reverse global warming. In many instances, they are aided and abetted by the very powerful nuclear power industry.
One of their main lines of attack (used repeatedly by Romney in his first debate with President Obama) is that the federal government is picking energy “winners and losers.” Romney says he will not invest in “chasing fads and picking winners and losers” among energy technologies and will instead allow the free market to determine energy development.
Romney is right about one thing: The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.
As a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found that over $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.
Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies: