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Redford writes: "Who came up with the crazy idea that the fossil fuel industry deserves our hard-earned money, no less in economic times of such harsh human consequence?"

Actor, filmmaker and environmental advocate Robert Redford, 06/15/09. (photo: Contour/Getty Images)
Actor, filmmaker and environmental advocate Robert Redford, 06/15/09. (photo: Contour/Getty Images)

Stop Public Handouts to Oil, Gas and Coal

Robert Redford, Reader Supported News

18 June 12


very year, around the world, almost one trillion dollars of subsidies is handed out to help the fossil fuel industry. Who came up with the crazy idea that the fossil fuel industry deserves our hard-earned money, no less in economic times of such harsh human consequence? We fire teachers, police and firemen in drastic budget cuts and yet, the fossil fuel industry can laugh all the way to the bank on our dime? Something doesn't add up here.

We should not be subsidizing the destruction of our planet. Fossil fuels are literally cooking our planet, polluting our air and draining our wallets. Why should we continue to reward companies to do that?

As they go after more expensive and harder to access fossil fuels, it is like drilling a hole in our pocketbooks. We pay more at the pump. We pay in taxpayer subsidies to a highly profitable industry. And we pay in the rising costs of climate change in the form of floods, storms and droughts that hurt our homes and communities.

Our world leaders are gathering in Rio over the coming days for a historic meeting twenty years after the first Earth Summit. We are looking to our governments to show leadership and commit to real timetables and actions for fighting climate change, including ending fossil fuel subsidies. Sure, they've made commitments to stop these unnecessary payouts. But commitments need to become action to have any meaning. And despite strong words, we are not yet seeing action on the ground.

In the United States, President Obama has repeatedly proposed cutting $4 billion in annual federal subsidies to the oil and gas industry and several bills to cut fossil fuel subsidies are stalled in Congress.

Think about what else we could do with one trillion dollars. We could create clean energy jobs, limit greenhouse gas emissions that create climate change and help make a healthier and more secure life for our children. Instead, we give 12 times as much in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry as we give to clean energy industries like wind and solar.

If you have a dollar to invest - investing that dollar in clean energy creates three times the jobs of the same dollar invested in the fossil fuel industry. In fact, studies show that fossil fuel subsidies slow economic growth. Clean energy is a great example of building a green economy. Ending fossil fuel subsidies is good for our pocketbooks, economic growth and for our health and environment.

In poll after poll after poll, the public says they want more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.

So why aren't our world leaders doing more to deliver what the public wants instead of what oil, gas and coal companies want? We need to hold our leaders accountable for the choices they make on our behalf.

People around the world are waking up to the absurdity of subsidizing Big Oil and Coal. Over a million people have already signed onto a petition to end fossil fuel subsidies. And on June 18, people from all over the world will be sending world leaders message on Twitter and Facebook to #endfossilfuelsubsidies.

Just last March, President Obama said,

Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising.

These proposals have so far failed in the face of strong industry opposition and the fossil fuel industry is equally obstructive elsewhere in the world.

In a time of economic hardship, progressing climate change and a growing demand for reliable and clean sources of energy, using taxpayer money to help oil, gas and mining companies represent a reckless and irrational use of taxpayer money and government investment. We can do better. We need the fossil fuel industry to stop asking us to pay the price for their greed. We need our world leaders to turn their words into actions. And we can start by reminding them to #endfossilfuelsubsidies.

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+38 # neohip 2012-06-18 15:53
Thank you Mr. Redford. Your messages are always cogent and timely. We the people need to continue taking to the street in our underwear if need be banging our pots and pans. Every day we need to be making noise. The time is now and the truth will be realized. For all those who have been dreaming for so long and almost despaired that this moment would ever arrive--rejoice and awaken and activate your wisdom. All you need is love.
+27 # coffeewriter 2012-06-18 17:46
Great message. But where does it go to? To readers of this publication who already support these ideas - preaching to the converted, if you like.

America needs a new and tough leader. Someone who, when they promise 'change' can actually deliver it. Obama is a superb orator but his inexperience is telling - he is not a strong leader and he has not delivered what he was mandated to do. It's all very well that congress has been obstructive and that money is needed for political campaigns. But, bottom line: when voters are continually ignored or sidelined for moneyed interests, democracy has failed. America's experiment has failed. The full implications of this have yet to be manifested but they will. Learn some lessons from France - from the time of the French Revolution, the people have spoken. And they have decided that greedy capitalism isn't the answer so they are giving socialism the opportunity to look after the people. Good on them.
+17 # dyannne 2012-06-18 23:32
Americans are wusses. We don't fight for what we want. We yammer on and on online, but don't go to the trenches. I agree with coffeewriter. And of course I agree with you, Mr. Redford. It's simply crazy what we do with our money. Most of it goes down the rathole called defense, which benefits the very few and harms all the rest one way or another.
+15 # RMDC 2012-06-19 04:39
Thanks RR. You are exactly right. The fossil fuel industry is just too powerful. The US has fought wars all over the world for nearly a century on behalf of this industry. Whole regions of the world -- middle east, central asia, africa -- are having their normal national development stunted by America's insane quest for oil.

A trillion dollars spent on research into renewable energy would get us off of fossil fuel very quickly. We'll always use some oil, but most electricity could come from solar, geo-thermal, wind, and so on. Electric cars could reduce oil consumption by about 80%.

You say we need to hold our elected officials accountable. But how? They respond only to power and money. We don't have either.
+7 # letsfixit 2012-06-19 09:13
if you go to a congressman and ask for might get a response like this:
"I don't care what you do as long as XX corporation says it is okay" What does that mean? It means that market forces are driven by a large corporate process. It means that congressman has serious ties to the companies that sponsor him and must make sure that all interests are covered...not just our demand for change. If this nation could stay on track for just TEN YEARS....a dent would be made. But the partisan politics of congressional leadership change as well as personality flaws of the people we elect, make it impossible. Read Bill Clinton's last book and his description of the collaborative effort to modernize the empire state building. Most PUBLIC PRIVATE partnerships will fail because the time of ownership of private interest is LESS THAN SEVEN YEARS. Many of these payback periods may exceed ten to fifteen years!! Like an electric car...the payback is only going to occur after years of service at current technology rates. But if market swings continually force people to abandon strategies...we are NEVER going to make headway. It will only come by force or default...not planning. THAT is what makes this a tremendous strategy and game that must cross GENERATIONS!! - not an election cycle.
+7 # MidwestTom 2012-06-19 08:12
I agree we need to stop all subsidies of fossil fuel. With the current low natural gas prices the smaller companies have stopped drilling because they cannot make a profit. Some coal mines are shutting down for the same reason. If we keep this up maybe we can eliminate the 55% our electricity that comes from fossil fuels. It may triple the price of our electric bill, but it will be worth it to have the cleaner air.
+8 # letsfixit 2012-06-19 09:06
At one point the oil industry gross revenue was around 5 MILLION A MINUTE...and if you think a industry with a 30 to 50 percent gross profit margin needs a govt subsidy-

this is very similar to water subsidies along the CA AZ border that were started during the New Deal to promote development and production..and now changing that law is near impossible because the BILLIONS raked in from the unfair market advantage are funneled to the members of congress.

Like our spending problem we have now, it may be near impossible to stop...there is too much power associated with that money.

Our problem is we think too traditionally about change. We worry about the cost of living running amok, but the real challenge is changing building styles, consumption patterns (like 10,000 mile transportation of bananas, year round) etc etc. Look at what MPG increases on vehicles did to mitigate fuel prices!! If we all drove a 118MPG vehicle we would import ZERO oil. No more cigarette boats, no more private jets carrying one person and in one trip using fuel equaling a LIFETIME of consumption for most.

We all have the hair standing up on the back of our necks...somethi ng "just ain't right" but we don't know how to start due to either ignorance or making the first step to CHANGE. I'm going to try to build my first house with autoclaved aerated concrete...stic k and brick is dead. We could all learn by that. - at least start anyway.
+2 # Pete G. 2012-06-19 09:58
There is one method to resolve all of this which would be term limitation. One term in an elected office for an individual whom wants to perform a public service. No kissing everyone's butt for campaign re-election funds because you're not running. And, you don't have to pass any laws, just practice term limitation yourself. Vote them out!
+6 # James Marcus 2012-06-19 11:27
Term Limits
Substantial Reduction of Congressional Salaries/Benefi ts
Publicly Funded Elections, with equal Candidate advertising
No political contributions, campaign, or otherwise.
All Congress persons stand for re-election. (yes, you're fired)
+3 # Trueblue Democrat 2012-06-19 21:01
"Who came up with the crazy idea that the fossil fuel industry deserves our hard-earned money . . . ."

Good question, and I think we all know the answer to it: the bribe-taking scuzbags who infest the US congress -- on both sides of the aisle.
-1 # John Steinsvold 2012-06-19 21:20
An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative". She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein
0 # carolsj 2012-06-21 15:05
This is too much like Communism, which didn't work because people weren't motivated. There would probably be a huge underground money economy, not to mention cheating and favoritism. This system would devolve into the same human corruptions that plague every system. Controlled democratic capitalism is a good system, but ours is flawed because it isn't controlled enough. The big money has gotten too much power. Break up the big banks and corps into manageable units and regulate the heck out of them.
+3 # David C. 2012-06-19 21:21
Interesting, it seems these days it really doesn't matter the particular Subject - be it Banking, Ari-business (Monsanto),foss il fuel industry... the chorus is the same - our government has morphed itself into a "pay(me) as you go" entity, and "We the People" are rarely taken into account or considered unless it's time to go through the motions of a general election . Perhaps we should be asking ourselves (collectively), what single action would have the most far reaching benefit, and restore some level of control to our Nation's governance functions. Clearly, we have a responsibility to remove the free and unregulated access of special interest money to our Governmental leaders. The now steady flow of money into Washington DC and elsewhere is much more about a conflict of interest than it is about expression of, or freedom of, speech, and we shouldn't be told otherwise.
0 # carolsj 2012-06-21 15:07
Make the amendment--corp s are not people. Also, get rid of lobbying.
+1 # lark3650 2012-06-20 07:01
Your suggestions make too much sense, Mr. Redford. Greed does funny things to people because their visions are clouded by dollar signs $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ .

They forget that our earth is a living formation and must be protected and treated with respect. It is our obligation to do that while we are here.

But when you hear someone like Anne Coulter say: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"---Hann ity & Colmes, 6/20/01 - you get an idea of the kind of thinking we are up against.
0 # carolsj 2012-06-21 15:09
Yes, we have dominion. Do we want our domain to be a garbage dump? Do we want it to be barren and toxic? Dominion means we are responsible to take care of it.
0 # bobwad 2012-06-28 20:54
I agree to stop giving money..but it ludicrous to believe use of fossil fuels are "cooking" our planet it.. The Artic circle once had no ice..Not that long agao all of new your was just an ice sheet many feet thick..It all melted without fossil fuel causing it.. We need to spend money to prepare for the change and not tring to prevent something that is out of our control..we could not have prevented the thawing of new york..

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