Maine Senators Make the Right Choice on Oil Subsidies

Jane West

Collins (left) and Snowe. (Photo credit: Office of Olympia Snowe)

Maine’s “Sister Senators,” Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, should be applauded once again for breaking rank with Republicans and voting in favor of the measure to eliminate billions in tax breaks for the five largest private oil and gas companies. These tax breaks cost the U.S. Treasury $43.6 billion over the last decade. Although Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they needed last night, it’s good to see our Senators acting fiscally responsible. Our sincere thanks also goes out to Sens. Sanders, Leahy, Shaheen, Kerry, Reed, and Whitehouse. Connecticut’s senators Lieberman and Blumenthal also voted against oil subsidies.

Rewarding these companies for continuing to pursue dirty energy options that only end up costing our society more is simply nonsensical – it is quite simply, a double tax. Not only are we directly handing over our tax dollars to the fossil fuel industry to conduct exploratory drilling for yet more dirty fuels, but we also get hit on the backside. We pay for healthcare costs and environmental clean-up and enforcement costs associated with increased pollution.

By contrast, continuing to provide subsidies for renewable, clean energy makes sense for society.  Many Republicans have argued that if we eliminate the tax incentives for dirty fossil fuels, we should eliminate them for clean fuels too – after all, isn’t that capitalism at its finest? Eliminate all subsidies and let the best fuel win?  But that argument fails to acknowledge the benefits clean fuels create for our health, our environment, and as a result, ultimately our checkbooks. Those sort of benefits needs to be encouraged on a broad scale. Until the market-driven demand breaks free from the artificially depressed prices of dirty fossil fuels, we will never get on board with clean energy in a meaningful way.  Dangling a carrot for continued development of clean energy in the form of tax incentives while simultaneously scaling back the incentives to dirty energy is the only way to begin to adjust this playing field and get moving in the right direction. What would clean energy in America look like today if we spent $43.6 billion on it every year for the past decade?

Today, the US Senate is poised to vote on legislation that would massively expand oil drilling along each coast of our nation. This new legislation would provide even less regard for oversight and safety than is required now. Click here now to tell your senators that you want our coasts protected from unsafe oil drilling.

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