My legislation is based on a very simple idea. And that idea is that there ought to be a level playing field between fossil fuels and clean energy. Right now, fossil fuels subsidies in the tax code, for the most part, are permanent and the clean energy tax credits, for the most part, are temporary. Now, there is a good reason to make tax credits, subsidies, and incentives temporary in the tax code; from a policy standpoint, that requires legislators to reevaluate how a policy is working over time and to make modifications. But when you make a tax incentive permanent, you are never forced to reevaluate your circumstances.
The FAIR Energy Policy Act is about leveling the playing field and doing more to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. This isn’t just good policy, it is also very popular. Polls consistently show that majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents oppose tax preferences for coal, oil and gas.
We need to explore every avenue for moving towards a clean energy economy. That means ensuring that coal companies pay their fair share for mining on public lands, which is under consideration by the Obama administration, and eventually putting a price on carbon, which is something that I and others have proposed. And it means phasing out tax preferences that are inefficient, regressive and double down on our continuing addiction to fossil fuels.
The oil, gas, and coal industries together receive billions of dollars a year in federal subsidies, and yet they are among the most profitable industries in history. As we talk about debt and deficits and fiscal restraint, how can we justify continuing to subsidize industries that have received government support for over 80 years? Especially when we consider how doing so moves us in the wrong direction when it comes to addressing climate change.
Many of us in Congress are working hard to accelerate the clean energy transformation already underway. And we believe that if subsidies for fossil fuels are permanent, the tax credits for clean energy should be as well. If we can’t make clean energy tax credits permanent, then the fossil fuel industry should only get temporary subsidies that get reevaluated every several years. FAIR is fair.