Last September, President Obama promised that the cornerstone of his legislative program for 2011 would be to set an energy policy “that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way.
”Today, the president might seem to stand a better chance of refreezing the melting Arctic ice caps. After all, he’s up against a House Republican majority rife with members who openly deny that humans contribute to global warming, as well as members of his own party who are beholden to domestic fossil fuel industries. In November, West Virginia’s new Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, boasted to his constituents that he had secured Harry Reid’s assurance “that cap and trade is dead.”
But not all is lost. If President Obama wants to set us on a path to a sustainable energy future—and a green one, too—he should propose a very simple solution to the current mess: eliminate all energy subsidies. Yes, eliminate them all—for oil, coal, gas, nuclear, ethanol, even for wind and solar. It will be better for national security, the balance of payments, the budget deficit, and even, believe it or not, the environment. Indeed, because wind, solar, and other green energy sources get only the tiniest sliver of the overall subsidy pie, they’ll have a competitive advantage in the long term if all subsidies, including the huge ones for fossil fuels, are eliminated. And with anti-pork Tea Partiers loose in Washington and deficit cutting in the air, it’s not as politically inconceivable as you might think.
I don’t really find his parsing of the issue all that persuasive, and I’d also like to get rid of many of the taxes and regulations that make finding, producing, and selling fossil fuels so much more expensive (and serve as an indirect subsidy for “green” energy). But I’ll take this deal as a good start.