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Groups Call on Supercommittee to Cut Energy Subsidies

Andrew Restuccia

A major environmental group has teamed up with a conservative think tank and others to urge the congressional supercommittee to slash oil, coal, ethanol and nuclear subsidies — a move the groups say would save $380 billion over the next five years.

Friends of the Earth, the Heartland Institute, Public Citizen and Taxpayers for Common Sense released a report Wednesday, dubbed “Green Scissors 2011,” that casts the cuts as benefiting both the environment and the economy. 

“While all four groups have different missions, histories, goals and ideas about the role of government, we all agree that we can begin to overcome our nation’s budgetary and environmental woes by tackling spending that is not only wasteful but environmentally harmful,” the groups said in the report.

The groups noted that the report’s cuts amount to about one-fourth of the $1.5 trillion in debt reduction the supercommittee, which was formed as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, is charged with finding. The 12-member panel has until Nov. 23 to come up with a proposal.

While some Democrats have said they will push for the supercommittee to eliminate oil industry tax breaks, the move faces resistance from Republicans, who have taken tax increases off the table.

Still, Taxpayers for Common Sense President Ryan Alexander said eliminating energy tax breaks is an easy way to meet the supercommittee’s debt-reduction goal.

“These common-sense cuts represent the lowest of the low-hanging budgetary fruit,” Alexander said. “Lawmakers across the political spectrum should be scrambling to eliminate these examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary tax breaks that are squandering our precious tax dollars while the nation is staring into a chasm of debt.”

Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) echoed Alexander’s sentiments.

“These subsidies really hold back innovation because they protect grandfathered fuels and grandfathered technologies that keep the new fuels from coming to market,” he said Wednesday on a call with reporters about the report.

The report calls for eliminating a series of tax breaks for the oil industry, as well as a 45-cents-per-gallon ethanol tax credit. It also recommends cutting incentives for carbon capture and sequestration at coal plants, as well as loan guarantees for the nuclear industry.

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