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 A damaged vehicle stands amongst burning structures during the Dixie Fire in Greenville, California

 A damaged vehicle stands amongst burning structures during the Dixie Fire in Greenville, California on August 4, 2021. (Photo: Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Why Are Americans Subsidizing Our Own Extinction?

To stop our climate-change-driven suicide, Congress must stop allowing oil exports, end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and promote clean American energy.

Thom Hartmann

Each American—man, woman and child—paid around $2000 last year to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, according to an analysis this year by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

If America wants to stop funding its own suicide, at a minimum Congress must reverse that lobbyist-purchased 2015 law allowing US oil exports and set a two or three-year goal for ending all subsidies of the fossil fuel industry.

Worldwide, the fossil fuel industry's lobbying power has gotten it about $6 trillion a year in subsidies; America's $600 billion a year gift to the energy barons pours cash into this massively profitable industry at the rate of a million dollars a minute.  

We're funding our own suicide: the world's largest fossil fuel companies right now have drilling and mining operations underway that, if completed, will push the world well past a catastrophic 2.7 degrees Celsius, the level that some scientists estimate could lead to a dinosaur-level extinction.

And while the fossil fuel companies all give lip service to becoming "carbon neutral" they're entirely talking about their own operations, not the fossil fuel products their operations are producing.

So BP is going to super-insulate their buildings: that'll do nothing about the carbon bomb they and their colleagues in the industry are planning to throw into our atmosphere over the next 30 years.

It doesn't have to be this way, and the US could lead the world in getting off our fossil fuel addiction if only our politicians could stop taking money from the fossil fuel industry and instead do the right thing.

As President Trump loved to proclaim, the USA is now "energy independent," meaning we produce more energy—including oil—than we use. You'd think that would mean we'd redirect our efforts from fossil fuels into greening America, but you'd think wrong.

It costs, in 2022 dollars, an average of $23 a barrel to produce oil in the US from existing wells and $48 a barrel from new wells (which includes all the costs of ramping up to production).

So why isn't oil in the US selling for, say, $50 or $60 a barrel, where oil companies could make a sweet profit and gas prices would float around $2.50 a gallon?

It goes back to a massive and expensive lobbying effort by Big Oil in 2015: a handful of fossil-fuel-owned Democrats joined the entire bought-off GOP in pushing legislation through Congress that reversed President Ford's 1975 ban on exporting American oil. President Obama, over the loud objections of most Democrats, signed the legislation on December 18th of that year.

Wherever you find politicians willing to sell out to big money, you find politicians dancing to the tune of Big Oil. Former North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, for example, said when she voted to end the export ban:

"The facts are clear: lifting the ban is good for consumers, our economy, national security and energy security."

The former Senator is now a lobbyist, most recently working to block tax increases on morbidly rich people and corporations by spreading money and favors around Congress to kill President Biden's Build Back Better legislation. As The New York Times noted last September:

"Congressional Democrats always knew their battle plan for raising taxes on corporations, large inheritances and the superwealthy would not survive initial contact with the enemy. They just didn't realize that enemy would be North Dakota-nice Heidi Heitkamp."

Now that America produces more oil that we use (and our consumption will begin a real nose-dive over the next few years as more electric vehicles come online), America has gone stupid.

Chalk it up to five corrupt Republican justices on the Supreme Court legalizing political bribery with their 2010 Citizens United decision: the lobbying and dark money businesses have since exploded, particularly for the insurance, pharma, and oil industries.

Which is why instead of keeping that oil in the US to hold down prices for working people still driving gas-powered cars and trucks, we're letting the big oil giants export cheap American oil into world markets, jacking up our gas prices here and their profits worldwide.

Meanwhile, Europe—which is nowhere near energy independent, but doesn't allow industry to legally buy off politicians—has just committed to putting solar panels on the rooftops of every public building in every country across the entire European Union by 2025.

The EU took this extraordinary action this week, so they could end their need to import oil and gas from Russia.

Here in America, though, every fossil fuel company in the country—from Joe Manchin's little operation in West Virginia to the largest oil giants—is committed to extracting as much of these environmental poisons from the ground as they can.

They put out nice press releases about their commitment to reducing America's use of fossil fuels, but they're no more meaningful than the neighborhood heroin dealer's proclamation that he's just trying to help his customers overcome their addictions.

Each will tell you that their operations won't be enough to produce catastrophic climate change. But add them up and we're in deep trouble, and as an industry they're still promoting climate disinformation while buying as many politicians as they can, worldwide.

Way back in 2009, the G20—including America—signed an agreement to phase out that $6 trillion a year in worldwide government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. While many countries have taken small bites out of their subsidies, here in the US they've actually grown.

If America wants to stop funding its own suicide, at a minimum Congress must reverse that lobbyist-purchased 2015 law allowing US oil exports and set a two or three-year goal for ending all subsidies of the fossil fuel industry and redirect some or all of those subsidies to clean power projects and energy conservation.

Anything less is sheer lunacy.

This article first appeared at the Hartmann Report and appears here with permission.


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