Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Carbon wins again and again in public policy

I saw this meme on Facebook this morning:

As I looked at the picture, I began to wonder how accurate this was. Turns out that it's pretty accurate, but it doesn't give the whole story about per unit costs. While it's true that carbon energy interests receive enormous subsidies, it's important to note that the per unit costs by source is much, much higher for renewables than for carbon fuels. Check out the table below from Politifact:

Solar       $59.60

Wind       $31.33

Biofuel    $10.46

Nuclear    $1.71

Coal         $0.38

Oil/gas     $0.27

Wind and solar subsidies are more than a hundred times greater per unit (in this case, an energy equivalent of a barrel of oil), than coal and gas. But because of the sheer volume of production, carbon energy costs far more in aggregate subsidies than for newer technologies.

Energyfactcheck.org also has some interesting statistics here, two of which really stood out to me:
A 2011 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 74% of Americans support “eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries” in order to “reduce the current federal budget deficit.” (Source: Wall Street Journal, http://on.wsj.com/jRJmqU)
By contrast, the 2012 United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll found that “almost two-thirds—64 percent—of those surveyed said that Congress should extend federal tax credits that encourage production of alternative-energy sources.” (Source: National Journal, http://bit.ly/KRLSzx)
How is it possible that subsidies for carbon fuels continue despite strong opposition? It's all about the money. Here is one more from Politifact, same page:
In cumulative dollar amounts, over the lifetimes of their respective subsidies, the oil, coal, gas and nuclear industries have received approximately $630 billion in U.S. government subsidies, while wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable sectors have received a total of roughly $50 billion in government investments.  (DBL Investors, http://bit.ly/uV14lf) 
This is why the Koch Bros can raise $900 billion from their network of billionaires to get the government they want. They're getting huge subsidies for their industries while claiming a sincere desire for a free market as libertarians. If just one family can do that, what does that say about our form of government? That we're ruled by an oligarchy.

This is not just something we have to accept. In order to change it, we have it accept it for now, with a mind and determination to change it. But how do we get true reform of government?

I know, know. I sound like a broken record when I say this, but to get true reform of government, we will need to get money out of politics. There is no other way to change public policy. Once the money is removed as a factor in politics, then political objectives and agendas must stand on their own merits. Here are two SuperPACs working towards the goal of fundamental campaign finance reform to consider:

Friends of Democracy

I am sure there are many more organizations working towards the same goal, it's just that these two stand out from my research. Maybe in 2016, we will finally wise up as a nation and pony up the cash needed to get candidates in office dedicated to campaign finance reform. Both of those sources have unseated Congressmen or rattled the cage enough to get some attention. More positive action could be on the way.
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