Fossil Fuel Companies are Corporate Welfare Bums, Need to Be Carefully Watched.

According to the Financial Dictionary, a (corporate) welfare bum is “an executive or company taking money from the public treasury through subsidies, large contracts or other means. ”

Hardly a day goes by without the fossil fuel lobby’s paid mouthpieces prattle on about how clean energy technologies need to “stand on their own two feet.” Check out recent pieces by the Koch brothers’  Tim Phillips; fossil fuel influence peddler and former Senator Don Nickles; and the reliable mouthpiece of the fossil fuel lobby, Thomas Pyle. The false meme is the same: clean energy is an expensive indulgence for taxpayers, fossil fuels are the “stand on your own two feet” technology.

Except that fossil fuels aren’t standing on their “own two feet.” To the contrary: what none of these “stand on your own two feet guys” want to mention is the embarrassing fact that the fossil fuel industries are welfare bums. Big ones. In fact, they get hundreds of billions of dollars of our tax dollars through tax deductions, tax credits, cheap access to public property, pollution remediation, trade promotion and whole government bureaucracies devoted to providing functions that these highly profitable, mature industries should perform themselves…  if they were “standing on their own two feet.”

Case in point: Dominion Energy just received a $30 million check – from the state tobacco settlement – “to help build a pipeline that would fuel a new Dominion power plant” in Virginia. Keep in mind that Dominion  is a highly profitable monopoly. Its market cap is over $40 billion. Its CEO, Thomas Ferrell, was paid around $11 million in 2013.  Yet this wealthy, powerful, company just got a $30 million check of our money for doing something it should be doing anyway, if it were truly “standing on his own two feet” (which it clearly isn’t).


You’ll have to wait more years than the number of digits in the number Pi before the Wall Street Journal editorial page rails against that one.


Meanwhile, we read with interest this story by Politico’s Andrew Restuccia about “oil producers plan[ning] to seize on a looming downturn in the shale patch to press Washington to pass more of their policy goals.” In other words, they don’t actually like the “free-market competition” they always claim to support, at least not when it goes against them.


In short, the welfare bums are lining up for their (bigger) checks.


With all that in mind, we’re launching an occasional series — we’ll call it the “fossil fuel corporate welfare watch” — to highlight the ways in which the fossil fuel industry pushes for more of our tax money, instead of “standing on its own two feet.”


Stay tuned.