Many times in this blog, we inform our readers about solar hot water subsidies and tax breaks. Well, some people comment to me that solar should stand on its own and shouldn’t be subsidized…except what about all of the oil and gas and coal subsidies?
And yet, a number of people say that solar shouldn’t have subsidies, and that the technology should stand on its own and that the government shouldn’t be supporting solar subsidies. My answer to that is this: fine.
That is, I understand the concern that tax payers shouldn’t subsidize a relatively new energy technology and that the market should determine price.
However, if you’re going to play that free market game, then it’s only fair that oil, coal, and gas companies play by the same rules, right? Therefore, oil, coal, and gas companies shouldn’t get subsidies either, and boy do they get subsidies.
- FACT: From the New York Times: “According to the most recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, released in 2005, capital investments like oil field leases and drilling equipment are taxed at an effective rate of 9%, significantly lower than the overall rate of 25 % for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry.”
- And with oil’s windfall, low-taxed profits since 2008, when oil prices sky rocketed, talk about a subsidy! But let’s dig further.
- FACT: Also mentioned in the same article is the fact that the oil and gas industry spent $340 million on lobbyists since 2008, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political spending.
- FACT: According the Environmental Law Institute study, between 2002 and 2008, the coal and oil companies received $72 billion over the seven-year period, while subsidies for renewable fuels totaled only $29 billion. That’s 3.5 times as much. But we can dig even further…
- FACT: President Obama’s 2011 fiscal year budget proposal sent to Congress calls for eliminating more than $2.7 billion in tax subsidies for oil, coal and gas industries. If passed, U.S. Tax payers will save (not give oil companies) 38.8 billion dollars.
I don’t get it. Why should we be subsidizing technologies that have been around for 100 years? Shouldn’t the oil and gas industry “stand on its own” and let the free market decide the winners and losers?
So, yeah, solar needs subsidies to encourage Americans to change their minds and break from the coal and oil status quo. But if you want to talk about solar’s high cost, then one wonders how much coal and oil would really cost without American tax payers subsidizing their dirty-air profits.
One last dig into coal and oil costs:
- 29 miners lives were lost in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010.
- Another 11 lives were lost in the BP oil explosion.
- Thousands more lives have been lost in similar fossil fuel energy accidents in the last 100 years.
There has never been a single day in recorded history when so many lives were lost to solar technology in one day in a single event, and I doubt there ever will be.