There is a groundswell of support in America to tackle the calamity of climate change. Addressing climate change is a national security issue, but renewable energy is also a jobs issue, a health issue and a pocketbook issue for each American family. Constantly improving technology means that low-carbon renewable energy is cleaner, cheaper and safer than burning fossil fuels.
Congress needs to kick the carbon habit. We need a “Green New Deal” that helps all Americans take advantage of this fundamental change — as workers and manufacturers, consumers, builders and inventors. And much like the original New Deal — when President Franklin D. Roosevelt worked with Congress to pass 15 major bills in 100 days — a comprehensive “Green New Deal” will require swift action on several legislative proposals to meet its goal.
As the 116th Congress convenes, one essential legislative proposal it should move on quickly is to throw in the trash the 44 separate energy tax breaks, anchored by advantages for big oil companies that get billions of dollars in beneficial tax treatment.
The dirty relics of the past century should be replaced with just three new energy tax incentives: one for clean energy, one for clean transportation fuel and one for energy efficiency. Under this new system, benefits would be received only if carbon emissions are decreased or eliminated. The cleaner it is, the greater the benefit. These reforms will not only set off a wave of investment and innovation in clean and renewable energy, they will also cut subsidies and save Americans money.
Research by economists from across the spectrum shows that nothing drives behavior in the American marketplace like the right incentives — which millions of American now say should help green, not dirty, energy. Rewarding investment based on carbon emissions ensures a transition away from fossil fuels and provides flexibility for new technologies to enter the market. The result? Cleaner energy, lower electricity bills and more clean energy jobs across the country.
It’s time to end tax promotion of extracting, importing and burning fossil fuels and shift to support for an innovative, low-carbon economy. The Clean Energy for America Act, a proposal I first unveiled in 2015 and will reintroduce this Congress, would finally put the tax code in sync with 21st-century energy needs.
This one bill not only addresses climate change, it will start unraveling the disasters wrought by President Donald Trump’s tax law, which tilted the playing field even further in favor of Big Oil. Four of the largest oil companies expect to rake in nearly $15 billion in benefits from Trump’s corporate tax cuts. It’s been a year since Trump signed the Republican tax bill into law, and those benefits are being hoarded by senior executives and wealthy investors. In just the first half of 2018, Fortune 500 oil companies authorized nearly $13 billion in new stock buybacks. These buyback schemes artificially inflate stock prices, increasing compensation for Big Oil CEOs and enriching foreign shareholders.
The U.S. tax code is now stacked against renewable energy; it’s stacked against technologies that can lower energy carbon outputs and it’s stacked against taxpayers. The Clean Energy for America Act ends these skewed priorities at a time when poll after poll show that a majority of Americans want climate action.
Scientists are sounding the alarms. Citizens are demanding more than the status quo. Urgency is everything. Failure to act spells dire consequences for our economy, the health and safety of our families and most vulnerable communities, and the future of our planet.
Let’s take a first step for a “Green New Deal” by bringing the spirit of FDR to fix our broken tax code.
Politico · by Sen. Ron Wyden · January 10, 2019