Next time you hear a conservative say that we need to cut spending, you can toss this little turd in his punchbowl. Last year, we spent $18.5 BILLION on fossil fuel subsidies. That word — subsidy — might be a bit nebulous to some, so let’s use a smaller one: money. We gave the fossil fuel industry in this country $18.5 billion dollars of our money. This is an industry that makes more profits than anything on this planet, ever. But we give them billions every year.
President Obama has been trying to follow through on his 2009 pledge to the G20 that we phase out fossil fuel subsidies to help combat climate change. He’s been trying every year to get Congress to honor this commitment. You know how that’s gone. Big Oil, Coal and Gas get tax breaks, incentives for production on federal lands (as if profits weren’t already an incentive? Oh, and the royalties for their producing on our land haven’t been raised in 25 years!) and deductions for cleaning up their own messes. And they love it this way. Frees up more cash to pay off their buddies in Washington.
The amount of money wasted on these subsidies is downright criminal. Think of all the things we could do with $18.5 billion. Here’s a list of things I would use that money — OUR money — for.
$ Send over 600,000 people to college. According to the College Board the average cost of tuition for the 2013-2014 school year at a private college was $30,094. If we sent state residents to public colleges in their state, we could send over 2 million people at just under $9,000. Imagine a smarter country.
$ Build floating cities. A floating city like the Freedom ship would house 50,000 and include schools, hospitals, shops, parks, art galleries and even a casino. As envisioned by Roger M. Gooch, the Freedom ship would continuously circle the globe, powered by solar and wave power. This ship would cost $10 billion to build, but it would only make a dent in America’s homeless problem. However, if we used mothballed Navy ships we could make better use of the $18.5 billion. Near my home, there are five aircraft carriers just sitting in dock. If they — and others around the country — could be pressed back into service as shelters for the homeless, we could really make a difference.
$ Fund NASA. In 2015, NASA’s proposed budget was $17.6 billion. The space agency’s R&D alone is worth funding. Then there is the asteroid retrieval mission, studying the sun, the Europa mission, the new launch system…. Earth Science studies really need funding. The 2015 budget for earth observations was cut by $56 million. Probably because there are so many climate change deniers in Congress. And NASA’s education budget has also been cut. This is exactly the sort of public advocacy they need and the kind that can’t be filled by museums. Funding NASA returns us more for our buck than almost anything else: $40 for every dollar spent.
$ Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Some of you may remember — or have relatives who do — the New Deal. When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, one-quarter of the American workforce was unemployed. FDR set about putting his New Deal into action. With the Works Progress Administration, he put millions of Americans back to work. We need another WPA. There is infrastructure that needs to be repaired and upgraded. There are people who need work. Put the two together, already.
$ Detroit. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2013, with a debt of about $18 billion. Maybe if we paid that off, the city would stop turning off the water on low-income residents.
$ Revamp the Veteran’s Administration. Seriously, it’s 2014 and the VA still hasn’t been digitized and computerized? Last year the VA and the Department of Defense started to build a joint system so that military personnel records can be smoothly transferred to the VA when someone leaves the service. They spent $1 billion trying to do this. Then Congress threw a wrench into the works by limiting what could be spent on such a system. This $18.5 billion could get the job done.
$ There are various programs and causes that could use an influx of $18.5 billion: SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, WIC, Head Start, child care assistance, disadvantaged students, vaccinations, senior Meals on Wheels, housing assistance, military families… these and more are still being crippled by the sequester cuts (you remember those, right?). That $18.5 billion could certainly help these struggling programs.
No matter how you look at it, we waste billions every year subsidizing fossil fuel. Not only do they not need it (and we do) but it contributes to climate change. And nobody needs that. It’s high time we cut Big Oil, Gas and Coal off. They are the real welfare queens.