Friday was a busy day for the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress giving handouts to their friends in the fossil fuel industry. Two separate policy announcements would give new subsidies to coal power plants (as well as risky nuclear plants) and would make it easier to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge – all this despite the growing awareness that climate change is already here and making live more perilous for millions of our fellow citizens.
I’d like to call the moves mindboggling, but at this point it’s just business-as-usual for the fossil fuel industry’s cronies in Washington.
Ignoring the results of a study he ordered back in April that did not show any threat to the resiliency of the electric grid from increased renewables, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a proposal for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to fundamentally change the way electricity markets work in order to funnel money to coal and nuclear plants. The changes would allow plants that keep a 90-day supply of fuel onsite a “full recovery of costs,” instead of the current cost-of-service charges electricity suppliers use. Analysts are calling this the biggest change to electricity markets in over 20 years and it’s all being done to prop up failing dirty energy sources.
Hidden in Republican Budget Plan: ANWR Giveaway to Drillers
As Perry was making his announcement, Senate Republicans were releasing their proposed fiscal year 2018 budget resolution. The budget resolution is meant to be the vehicle they use to pass their tax cut plan – already a major giveaway to corporations and the wealthy. But included in the proposal is a directive to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to find an additional $1 billion in revenue to offset some of the cost of giving trillions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and billionaires. The chair of that committee is Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski has already been pushing her dirty energy bill with goodies for the fossil fuel industry this Congress, but now she has an opportunity to give an even bigger prize to her friends in the fossil fuel lobby: opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
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Opening up ANWR has been a long-time goal for oil and gas companies and by putting it into the budget resolution and tying it to tax cuts, they sidestep the need to overcome a filibuster. Even with Trump in the White House trying to give the fossil fuel cartel every handout he can, the Republicans knew they couldn’t get ANWR without major opposition from (most) Democrats. By tying the move to taxes, they can maneuver around opponents without requiring a single Democratic vote.
Included in the Senate Republicans’ proposal is a directive to find an additional $1 billion in revenue to offset some of the cost of giving trillions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and billionaires.
As Puerto Rico continues to suffer through the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, and Texas and Florida continue to recover, Congress and this administration should be pushing policies that would fight the worsening effect of climate chaos. Instead, they’ve chosen this moment to push an outmoded, climate threatening energy policy that will enrich their friends and benefactors and impoverish the world we all live in.
Thankfully there are leaders who see that we must pursue a different path. That’s why it is important to continue to build support for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation, the Off Fossil Fuels Act, which would transition the United States to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 – and 80 percent by 2027. That’s the urgent policy we need to avert the worst of climate change.