Last week, several organizations joined to release the annual "Green Scissors Report," detailing wasteful and environmentally destructive government spending.
With deficits soaring, environmental catastrophe in the forefront, and both sides of the aisle completely unwilling to make tough choices about taxes and entitlement costs, this report is more prescient than ever.
And while a litany of changes will need to be made to square this fiscal circle, the "Green Scissors Report" argues that this is just “a first step to restoring fiscal sanity.”
The report identifies over $200 billion in wasteful government subsidies that are damaging to the environment and harmful to consumers.
The campaign — led by Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Public Citizen, and Environmental America — target four main areas in addressing this immense problem: Energy, Infrastructure, Agriculture, and Bio-Fuels.
The group steadied its sights on the legislative priorities of addressing climate change.
From the $2.4 billion “clean-coal pipedream” to an 1872 Mining Law that gives away federal land at $5 an acre, there are plenty of places to aim those scissors.
Let's look at a rundown of the major cuts in each area*:
*The dollar amounts are "Green Scissors estimates" for potential saving from 2011-2015.
|Oil and Gas||
|Intangible Drilling Costs||$8,963,000,000|
|Oil and Gas Royalty Relief
|Domestic Manufacturing Tax Deduction for Oil and Gas Companies
When added up with the reports other potential oil and gas cuts, the total recommended cuts are about $31,223,000,000!
|Loan Guarantees for Coal Power Generation||$8,000,000,000|
|Clean Air Coal Program
The Obama administration has been strengthening its position against fossil fuel subsides like coal.
Coal subsidies were never environmentally sound, and every accident like the one in Massey Energy's West Virginia mine earlier this year is making it less and less attractive.
Total potential savings from 2011-2015? $19,209,000,000.
According to the report, “Taxpayers have artificially propped up the nuclear industry through a variety of subsidies, from generous research and development grants to liability insurance.”
Break out the garden shears for this one, scissors may not be strong enough:
|Loan Guarantees for Nuclear Reactors and Uranium Enrichment||$22,500,000,000|
|Nuclear Waste Fund Liability Payments||$12,300,000,000|
I'd go on with nuclear, but after typing all of those zeros, I fear carpal tunnel is coming for me.
Grand total of potential cuts in nuclear subsidies: $46,422,000,000.
The agriculture sector also gets a huge share of the government cheese.
With subsides like these, it's always a good time to grow corn in America!
Here's a few suggested cuts for the agriculture industry:
Reducing these commodity crop subsides by half would save taxpayers $26 billion in the next five years alone.
And with much of that corn and soy production going towards creating artificial foodstuffs, the country's physical health may have as much to gain as its fiscal health.
Total savings from agriculture cuts? $27,880,000,000.
Though positioned as a renewal energy industry, the "Green Scissors Report" treats biofuel subsidies with a healthy skepticism.
Corn ethanol — the country's most prevalent biofuel — receives 75% of federal subsidies for renewable energy.
Yet the report cites studies that show that the biofuel could actually be more environmentally damaging than gasoline. Due to the large amount of land and resources needed to grow such a massive amount of corn, the process can contribute more to global warming than gasoline does.
The government hands over a whopping $5.4 billion in ethanol credits every year, largely through the Volumetic Ethanol Excise Tax credit (VEETC).
The report states that:
This massive subsidy does not go to family corn farmers or even agro-businesses or ethanol producers. Instead, the benefits go almost entirely to oil companies, such as Shell Oil, that blend the ethanol with traditional fuel.
And massive it is... The potential savings from VEETC cuts is $36,450,000,000 over the next five years.
Now, I've only just scratched the surface of the report's recommendations. Considering that the U.S. Is facing a $13.1 trillion debt, we can only hope that some of the suggestions can be implemented — not just for our planet's health, but for our economic health as well.
I urge you to read the entire report here.