Two weeks ago, I visited the office of a friend of mine, a partner at a top cleantech Silicon Valley law firm. He and I shared a concern about the increasingly hostile, anti-clean energy propaganda from dirty energy-funded critics who are trying to position clean energy as expensive, subsidy-dependent, and “not ready.” The good news, my friend said, was that he’s increasingly hearing from cleantech executives and investors concerned about these growing attacks on their investments. The bad news was that many of those concerned don’t connect the attacks with the dirty energy money that’s funding them.
“Now what cleantech needs to hear is, ‘No more Mr. Nice Guy’,” he told me. “These [dirty energy] guys are out to kick our butts, and they will if we let them.”
I think my friend is right. However, after attending last week’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, I think there’s a ways to go before enough cleantech players see that dirty energy is using media and government to protect its capital investments and decades-long feeding at the public trough.
Scaling Green recently wrote about the insights shared by energy trends analyst Chris Namovicz of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), who spoke at our “Communicating Energy” lecture series recently, and his comments regarding the lack of a definitive count on fossil fuel subsidies in this country. Today, we return to Namovicz’s lecture, this time to ask him about the economics of fossil fuel companies’ exploitation of resources on public property.
Here’s our question:
Their price drops in part because we’re not charging them to ruin public property. I mean, we basically are letting them contaminate water, we don’t charge them for that, and they don’t have to pay it. Your assumptions don’t include any price we would impose on them for hurting public waterways, is that accurate?
The national conversation about wasteful welfare for highly profitable dirty energy corporations has gone from the dramatic statement by the Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency that fossil fuel subsidies are one of the biggest impediments to global economic recovery (“the appendicitis of the global energy system which needs to be removed for a healthy, sustainable development future”), to a speech by Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch (in which he called the fossil fuel industry “grotesquely oversubsidized”), to a call by President Obama to cut oil company welfare by $4 billion. Not to be outdone, House Democrats are now calling for a $40 billion cut.
Dirty energy welfare defenders have, predictably, responded with ridiculous, Palin-esque denials of reality, but the voter demands that wasteful spending be cut begs the question: just how much of our tax money is going to ExxonMobil, Massey, etc.? With the new deficit hawks in Congress going after insignificant items like bottled water expenses, you’d think they’d want to know the size of the really wasteful stuff, right?
Americans want deficits cut , and there is a new set of leaders in Congress who committed themselves last year to cutting wasteful government spending. And, while over 70 percent of Americans are unaware how much of their money is given in welfare checks to highly profitable dirty energy companies, when they find out, only 8 percent want it to stay that way.
After President Obama’s State of the Union address calling for a modest cut of just $4 billion in welfare for oil companies, the focus on this insanely wasteful spending has intensified. It’s the right proposal, but one that will encounter very stiff resistance for entrenched interests that still very much enjoy their century-long stay in the government incubator of tax breaks, subsidies, cheap access to public property, forgiveness for wrecking that property, and little meaningful oversight.
The new Congress roared into Washington this week with what it sees as a mandate to cut government spending. Required reading for all its new members should be Washington Monthly’s excellent new piece, “Get the Energy Sector off the Dole.” And, if you work in, invest in, or support scaling the clean economy, this important piece is worth your time to read as well.
America’s clean energy advancements are under a concerted propaganda and lobbying attack, underwritten by the dirty energy lobby, which wants Americans to think that clean energy is too “expensive,” or “dependent on subsidies.” Cleantech needs your help to get the laugh track going on such claims, and this article can equip with you the foundation for doing that.