Front Porch Blog

Let’s Coal the Whole Thing Off: Dirty Industry Receives Billions in Taxpayer Support

How was your weekend, America? Any hot dates? You’re still involved with Big Coal?! Unbelievable. (Sigh) You do love when that industry talks clean to you, don’t you? All those sweet little lies…

Always the same story. You throw on your finest duds, but no longer expect anything new. Maybe you go out on your rapidly depopulating mining town and try to forget that you’re condemning your prospects with other industries there in the future? Knock back a drink or two of water contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals to help with the forgetting? Seriously America, what could possibly make this lousy relationship worse?

How bout the fact that time after time Big Coal is leaving you to take care of the ENORMOUS check?

Multiple reports and studies are showing how the coal industry receives billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies from US taxpayers.

A 2009 Environmental Law Institute study entitled “Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008” (pdf) shows that the U.S. coal industry benefited from subsidies of around $17 billion between 2002 and 2008. In addition to federal support, coal is getting plenty of help from state and local governments as well. Another 2009 report (pdf) written by Dr. Melissa Fry Konty and Jason Bailey found that in Kentucky, for instance, the coal industry receives $115 million in subsidies per year. In Virginia, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the industry receives $44.5 million annually.

A 2010 Synapse Energy Economics report entitled Phasing Out Federal Subsidies for Coal (pdf) concludes that:

There remain certain distinct areas where federal financial policy implementation is not consistent with, and is even in conflict with, clear federal efforts to adapt to a carbon constrained future. Inconsistencies in federal policy require federal administrative intervention; private companies will not necessarily remedy the inconsistency. The disconnect between federal policies not only sets the nation back in achieving energy and environmental policy goals, but also places taxpayer dollars at risk. As regulatory policy changes, as financial circumstances change, so must the administrative financial policies of the federal government.

And let’s not forget about externalities: those negative impacts coal has on third parties that end up being paid for by taxpayers. These include costs associated with poisoned streams, deforestation, air pollution and global warming to name but a few. According to 2009’s Hendryx study, coal mining costs Appalachia $42 billion every year as a result of negative health impacts and loss of life. The Environmental Law Institute found that impacts to miner’s health such as, black lung disease, for instance, costs taxpayers around $1.5 billion, in addition to the incalculable suffering it exacts on the miners themselves and their families.

Unbelievably, the infatuation lives on.

Today, there are tremendous coal industry subsidies in the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), H.R. 2454. This legislation, which has passed the House though not yet the Senate, includes $60 billion in support of carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology.


COME ON America. You deserve so much better. And PS, Big Coal is seeing other folks behind your back anyway.





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