Coal Tattoo

‘Green Scissors’ says to end coal subsidies

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Last week, I did a quick overview post over on the Gazette’s Sustained Outrage blog about the annual Green Scissors report, which proposes ways to save government money by cutting environmentally harmful spending.

But I wanted to be sure to share with Coal Tattoo readers some of the report’s findings about the coal industry, for example:

Another conventional fossil fuel, coal, also continues to be the darling of Washington, despite its serious environmental consequences. The coal industry benefits from billions in federal subsidies, even as it makes substantial profits. Subsidies to the coal industry began in 1932, when the federal government first began allowing companies to deduct a portion of their income to help recover initial capital investments (the percentage depletion allowance). Since then, coal companies have enjoyed billions more in subsidies, including some hand- outs for simply following basic worker safety regulations, while earning billions in profits. Over the last decade, revenues at the largest domestic coal companies trended upwards, while profits have mostly followed. Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company, earned record breaking profits in 2008 and has already posted $461.3 million in profits in 2011, up 36 percent from the first six months of 2010. Consol Energy recorded nearrecord income of $540 million in 2009, and this year, first quarter profits nearly doubled from 2010 to reach $192 million.

The report went on:

Taxpayers also subsidize conventional fossil fuels projects through a host of national, international and regional development banks that use federal dollars to invest overseas in harmful projects like coal plants. On the national level, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the United States are examples of government-supported agencies that subsidize U.S. companies to invest in risky foreign markets by providing them direct and low-cost financing and insurance. While intended to help American small businesses compete in the global marketplace, these agencies actually provide subsidies to large, very profitable private companies like ExxonMobil. These public financing agencies continue to subsidize environmentally harmful coal, oil and gas projects.

In fiscal year 2010, the Export-Import Bank provided a record-breaking $4.5 billion in financing for these fossil fuels. The Export-Import Bank’s fossil fuel binge is continuing in 2011, including $805 million to finance the largest greenhouse gas-emitting project in its history, a 4,800 megawatt coal plant that will spew 30.5 million tons of carbon dioxide as well as enormous amounts of particulate emissions into the atmosphere each year.

Similarly, the World Bank and regional development banks, which also receive U.S. taxpayer support, continue to be some of the largest and most consistent funders of fossil fuel projects around the world. In fact in 2010, the World Bank provided a record-breaking $4.4 billion in coal financing, representing a 356 percent increase over 2009. This included funding for a South African coal plant that local and international advocacy groups say will not increase access to energy for many but will increase pollution.

You can read the full report, issued by progressive environmental group Friends of the Earth, deficit hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense, consumer watchdog Public Citizen and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute, here.