polluter welfare subsidies fossil fuel corporations tax code

End Polluter Welfare & Monopoly Welfare
royalties iceland constitution economics national property

Icelanders Back New Constitution Re Resources

Nobody made Earth. Who should get its value? We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) Common Dreams, Oct 16, on subsidies by B. Sanders (US Senator, Vermont); (2) Reuters, Oct 21, on Iceland by R. Robertsson; and (3) Progress Australia, Oct 18, on reform by A. Moore.

by Bernie Sanders, by Robert Robertsson, and by Andy Moore

I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found more than $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years alone. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.

Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies:

* BP, after committing one of the worst environmental disasters in the modern history of America, was able to take a large tax deduction on the money it spent cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

* Coal companies are able to sign single-bid sweetheart leases to mine on federal lands without paying fair value in royalties to the taxpayers of this country.

* In 2009, Exxon-Mobil, one of the most profitable corporations in this country, paid no federal income taxes, and in fact received a rebate from the IRS. Many other large and very profitable oil companies also have managed to avoid paying federal income taxes in certain years.

* But it is not just fossil fuel companies. The nuclear industry also benefits from massive corporate welfare. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that the nuclear industry has received over $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) in federal research and development support in the last 65 years. Nuclear corporations currently have access to billions in federal loan guarantees to build new plants and enrich uranium. They also have federal tax incentives for mining uranium, producing nuclear electricity and even decommissioning a plant.

* Perhaps most significantly, the nuclear industry would collapse tomorrow without a huge nuclear insurance program from the federal government. The Price-Anderson Act could, in the event of an American nuclear disaster, force taxpayers to pay out tens or even hundreds of billions in damage claims. Nuclear power is so risky that no company will provide that type of insurance.

To read more

JJS: Rather than let a few treat Earth as their own private goldmine, some societies prefer to regard Earth as our common heritage.

Residents of Iceland have voted for their constitution to be rewritten in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis, electing to take greater control of natural resources such as fish and geothermal energy.

The collapse of the island's heavily indebted banks led to demands for change after accusations of cronyism between the political elite and business.

The referendum is non-binding but backers of change hope that politicians will find it hard to ignore even though parliament is responsible for adopting a new constitution and the main opposition party has said it opposes proposed changes.

Eighty percent voted to declare all non-privately owned natural resources as "national property".

Fishing accounts for about 7 percent of the economy with fishing rights currently farmed out under a system of quotas which critics say have benefited a select few. Backers of the system say it has led to sound management of fish stocks. There will be pressure to change the fishing quota system because people want a bigger share of income from fishing and other natural resources.

Control of the island's natural resources remains a sensitive issue. Plans by a Chinese tycoon to buy rural land were blocked by the government last year. He is to lease the land instead.

In 2011, a Canadian company also faced protests -- led by singer Bjork -- and eventually agreed to reduce its stake in a geothermal power company.

The draft constitution includes provisions to allow 10 percent of voters to call their own referendums. It also sets a limit on the terms a president can serve to three from the current unlimited terms.

The draft constitution was drawn up after deliberations by the 25 members of the council and after about 3,600 comments and 370 suggestions were made to the council's website. The council also used Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the public.

To read more

JJS: Even when resources are national property, that does not guarantee that all citizens benefit equally. Royal families, ruling elites, other insiders, and top politicians often hog the rental income for themselves. What really matters is who gets that natural rent.

What's wrong with economics today?

To read more

JJS: How we act economically is based on reward. If reward is fair, then our efforts are efficient.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Tax Dollars Subsidize CEO Pay

Each day, every year, each nation, everywhere

Iceland Arrested Bankers, Look What Happened

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