US Wastes $200 Billion on Environmentally Damaging Subsidies

money pile photo

photo: Nick Ares via flickr

A new report by the Green Scissors Campaign details some $200 billion worth of yearly US government subsidies that the coalition says are "wasteful to taxpayers, harmful to the environment and bad for consumers." Green Scissors 2010 [PDF] covers four broad areas in which these subsidies occur-- energy, agriculture and biofuels, infrastructure, and public lands. Here are some of the more egregious examples of how we hand out money to destroy the environment:Big Coal & Big Ag Get Billions in Unnecessary Public Assistance
A loan guarantee program from the Department of Energy to cover coal company debts should a project fail--the tab for that: More than $50 billion.

Agricultural subsidies flowing mainly to huge agri-businesses to support commodity crops--just halving these would save $26 billion over the next five years.

Likewise, ending giveaways on public lands for timber, mining and grazing would save billions of dollars, the report says.

Progress Has Been Made Since 2004
However, the 2010 report update notes some improvements from the 2004 release of Green Scissors: Royalty rates for offshore drilling have been increased 6.25%; Yucca Mountain funding has been eliminated, a good thing considering environmental concerns with the nuclear waste disposal project; a 50¢ per gallon tax incentive for the production of liquid coal (twice the carbon emissions of gasoline) has been allowed to expire.

Stopping Government-Funded Environmental Destruction Helps Taxpayers & The Planet
Ben Schreiber, climate and energy tax analyst for Friends of the Earth, lays out the situation and what's at stake:

For far too long, the federal government has incentivized practices that destroy our environment. This is particularly true with energy. In the fight to combat global warming, we cannot continue to subsidize the harmful practices that have forced us into this dire predicament.

Environment America's Anna Aurilio adds, "With record deficits, it is outrageous that both Congress and the administration continue to waste money on programs that poison our air, foul our water and destroy pristine public lands. It's time to save taxpayer dollars and the environment."

Coalition Has Helped Cut $26 Billion in Subsidies So Far
In addition to the two groups mentioned above, the other organizations making up the Green Scissors Campaign are Taxpayers for Common Sense and Public Citizen. Since it was established in 1994, by their own count the coalition has helped cut more than $26 billion in environmentally destructive programs from the federal budget.

Read the full report: Green Scissors 2010 [PDF]

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More on Economics:
Setting a Price on Carbon Will Help US End Oil Addiction - Not Just Combat Climate Change
US Gives 2.5x More Subsidies to Fossil Fuels Than Renewables
Ditching Ethanol Subsidy Will Save US $6 Billion - Won't Hurt Domestic Production Either
Dear G20 - Stop Overfishing Subsidies

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