Our friend George Allen was on Coy Barefoot’s “Charlottesville – Right Now” show yesterday. As is often the case with George Allen, he had some…uh, “interesting” things to say. In particular, Allen’s take on energy – both clean and dirty – was utterly fascinating. According to Allen, for instance, there is virtually NO public subsidy supporting fossil fuels. Here’s George:
If everything were on the free market system, what would win? Coal, oil and natural gas. There’s not much subsidies at all for coal, it’s highly regulated. The depreciation allowances for oil are about the same that you would want to do for any sort of investments. If there weren’t the enormous mandates and subsidies that have really gotten out of control in the ethanol area, wind power, solar, there’s no way they could compete in the marketplace. We almost have a Don Quixote type energy policy in our country, where we’re using the medieval technology of wind power, tilting at windmills…If you had a pure, free marketplace approach, what would win are those that are the most reliable, the most efficient, and the other thing is they’re American as well; we’re the Saudi Arabia of the world when it comes to coal…Unfortunately, the sanctimonious social engineers that you have up in Washington at some of these conferences look at these resources as a curse, but we ought to use them creatively and cleanly.
All of this, of course, is wildly untrue or at best misleading. Honestly, it’s hard to even know where to begin.
For starters, though, let’s just refute the notion that fossil fuels would win in the “pure, free marketplace.” The fact is, that’s exactly what we have NOT had in this country for more than 100 years. To the contrary, there have been large-scale government subsidies on fossil fuels, both implicit and explicit – plus “externalities” (pollution, wars, you name it) – for over 100 years now in this country. And those are no closer to disappearing today than they’ve ever been. In fact, with the Teapublicans in charge, fossil fuel subsidies and special favors of all kinds are more entrenched than ever.
Coincidentally, just this morning on the Diane Rehm Show, the subject was “Oil Subsidies and the Future of U.S. Energy Policy.” On the show was a George Allen clone, a guy named Jack Coleman of Energy North America LLC, an (overwhelmingly dirty) energy consulting firm, formerly Republican General Counsel for the House Committee on Natural Resources (where he worked tirelessly to open up the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling, and to push horrendously polluting forms of energy such as “oil shale” and “tar sands”).
It’s fascinating how the Big Lies pouring out of Jack Coleman’s mouth were almost exactly the same as those spewing from George Allen on Coy Barefoot’s radio show. It almost makes you think that the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute are coordinating these guys’ talking points. Hmmmm.
For instance, Coleman claimed that the fossil fuel industry doesn’t get subsidies at all (!!), that their corporate profits “pale in comparison to the taxes they pay,” that there’s no “planetary environmental crisis,” and – perhaps the biggest lie of all – “there was no renewable energy 100 years ago, so there couldn’t be any renewable energy tax deductions.”
Compared to Coleman’s Big Lies, George Allen is the paragon of truthfulness. But that’s not saying much. For instance, Allen – the same guy who argues that government is evil, that it doesn’t create jobs, that the “free market” is all powerful and all knowing – argues in his “day job” that continuation of massive, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to the fossil fuel industry is totally justified and even essential. As is usually the case with George Allen, however, this utter internal contradiction and logic FAIL appears to soar far over his head (or maybe in one ear and out the other, through the hollow core at the center).
Of course, Allen gets paid good money to spread dirty energy industry propaganda. As I pointed out on Scaling Green the other day, the fact is that Allen has been heading up something called the American Energy Freedom Center, funded heavily by ExxonMobil and other members of the dirty energy industry. The same industry, by the way, which got an estimated $72 billion of our tax money in the United States alone between 2002 and 2008 — not to mention $312 billion worldwide in 2009 alone, according to the International Energy Agency. As I wrote recently on Scaling Green:
Despite all this, George Allen’s propaganda platform continues to attack smart policies that support clean energy, while claiming that its preferred source of (heavily subsidized) energy – dirty coal and oil, in particular – somehow epitomizes ‘freedom.'” Translation: big government subsidies are bad when they go to clean energy, great when even more of them go to dirty fossil fuels.
Of course, George Allen is paid good money not to understand any of that. And, despite his many shortcomings, not understanding stuff is one thing that George Allen has most certainly mastered.
P.S. Oh yeah, forgot to mention Allen’s line about how coal, oil and natural gas are “American.” In the real world, of course, we know that the United States imports nearly 10 million barrels per day of oil and about 7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. Also, in the real world, the most “American” of all energy sources are renewables like wind, solar, and geothermal, not to mention energy efficiency, none of which are in any way, shape or form dependent upon foreign dictators or countries that hate us, and none of which in any way, shape or form hurt the economy or the environment — unlike the energy sources George Allen advocates for.
P.P.S. Also, coal is “highly regulated?!?” That’s why they get to violate the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act pretty much with impunity? Wow, that’s some regulation!