Making Renewable Energy Competitive With Fossil Fuels

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Q: Renewable energy production in the solar and wind markets currently receives about $7 billion in government subsidies annually, but is still not competitive against fossil fuels on a large scale. To what extent should the U.S. continue to prop up these industries as they compete against dirty energy?

Given the importance of abundant amounts of energy for Americans, the federal government tends to subsidize all forms of energy development, including fossil fuels and renewables. A recently released report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that in 2011 the federal government spent $16 billion of our tax dollars in subsidies for the development of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, and only $2.5 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry in the form of tax breaks. But this breakdown in favor of larger subsidies to alternative renewables is a recent product of President Obama’s stated goal of cutting back on subsidies to the hugely profitable oil industry.

Historically the vast majority of energy subsidies have gone to developing fossil fuel resources and reserves. The CBO notes that until 2008 most energy subsidies went to the fossil fuel industry as a way to encourage more domestic energy production. A report by the non-profit Environmental Law Institute (ELI) confirms that, between 2002 and 2008, the federal government provided substantially larger subsidies to fossil fuels than to renewables. “Subsidies to fossil fuels—a mature, developed industry that has enjoyed government support for many years—totaled approximately $72 billion over the study period, representing a direct cost to taxpayers,” reported ELI. “Subsidies for renewable fuels, a relatively young and developing industry, totaled $29 billion over the same period.”

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Even though subsidies to the oil industry may be down substantially from what they once were, the Obama administration and many others would like to see any such subsidies to the oil industry stripped completely. This past March the U.S. Senate rejected the so-called “Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies” bill that would have eliminated several of the tax breaks still enjoyed by the five largest oil companies—and use some of the proceeds to extend expiring energy tax provisions including tax breaks for renewable energy, electric cars and energy-efficient homes.

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Comments

  1. Large businesses and corporation NEVER pay taxes. They are going to make money no matter what the government does or does not do as far as subsidies. The government can raise their tax to 50% and they would just raise their rates on their product to pay it. They are going to make money no matter what. We the consumer, is the ONLY ENTITY that pays taxes. We pay their taxes when we purchase their product. So subsidies from the government just keeps their product price lower. There isn’t any difference because the subsidies that come from the government really comes from our tax money. So no matter what or how you look at it WE pay the piper either way…when we buy or when we pay our income taxes.
    The only difference is to the people that make so little they don’t pay tax. Subsidies keep the price low enough for them to purchase.
    For example if the government stopped subsidies to the Oil Companies, they will raise the price at the pump and the poor won’t be able to afford gas. With the subsidies at least they can purchase gas.
    Big companies only suffer if their stocks go down. Then they just raise the price to compensate for it…more for us to pay.
    Wake up America, WE the People are the ONLY ENTITY that pays taxes, one way or another.

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