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UnThink Solar
a div of Impress Labs
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How Much Is Your Senator or Representative $upported By Oil and Coal? Here's a Way to Find Out.


The ending oil subsidy debate has begun in Congress. The debate is framed not around the environment or the fact that oil companies have received these subsidies for 100 years, but around the budget deficit and the mertis of giving $4 billion a year in tax breaks to oil companies. 

Politicians who support continuing oil subsidies claim that removing them will cost oil company jobs and not help to lower gas and heating oil prices. They hint that continuing subsidies and driil-baby-drill will lower gas prices today, but that's a fantasy. Of course, the oil subsidy supporters don’t mention how eliminating those subsidies could lead to solar jobs and make America energy independent while protecting, you know...breathing. But let’s let that go for now.

Regardless of party affiliation, the fact is that all candidates are supported by oil, coal, gas, and utilities to some extent. And yet...all things aren't really equal.

How can you tell? Easy. Go to www.dirtyenergymoney.com and find out how much $$$ your own representative or senators are $upported by oil and coal companies.

Here are a few examples from our political leaders who are calling for energy independence and slashing the budget, all the while demanding that we not be too hasty with oil subsidies:

  • Rep. Paul Ryan recently proposed a budget that doesn’t touch oil perks while completely eliminating solar and renewable energy subsidies. He has $261,000 little reasons why he may support oil subsidies, but think solar subsidies are a bad idea.
  • As for Speaker of the House, John Boehner? Since 1999, he has had $823,475 suggestions for why he might support oil and coal subsidies and want to make it more difficult for the solar industry to offer affordable solar options.
  • Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell has a grand total of $1,190,708 tiny reasons, since 1999, that might show why he could be in favor of extending fossil fuel subsidies for the foreseeable future.

Of course, just because an oil or coal company donates money to your candidate’s campaign, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your elected representative is going to vote and propose (or oppose) legislation that’s in the oil company’s interests.

For example, let’s look at California Representative Henry Waxman, a strong proponent of solar and renewable energy. He’s received $52,750 from coal, oil, and gas companies since 1999. However, those donations have not stopped him from calling for the end of oil and coal subsidies and consistently supporting pro-solar legislation. Likewise, Senator Charlies Schumer of New York has received a total of $239,293 in oil and coal contributions since 1999, yet he still continues to pressure Speaker Boehner to get rid of oil subsidies now.

Does 2+2=4? Usually, but let's assume all that the above are 100% blind to these contributions. The fact is that oil companies have received subsidies from the U.S. taxpayers for over 100 years now. That short-sighted policy has resulted in America being more reliant on dirty fossil fuels and our economy and geopoltics being increasingly affected by foreign fuel. Even if we drilled, drilled, drilled, here, we'd still run out due to our own thirsty demands. If we're going to spend tax money, let's encourage investing in a solution for the future, like electric cars, wind, solar, geothermal, energy efficiency, wave energy, grid upgrades, and new energy storage technologies.

If your Senator or Representative is asking to continue oil subsidies, go to www.dirtyenergymoney.com and find out how much support they receive from these oil companies. Next, do some Internet searches on solar and their names, and judge for yourself whether he or she is serious about leading America towards energy independence and more clean energy jobs that will last far past these peak oil days.

And how does this knowledge make a difference? How can you help? First, you can join and contribute to Oilchange International, the organization behind the above web site.

Second, take social media action: Share this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and urge them to share it. That sharing affects opinons, which in turn, affects national polling in favor of ending subsidies. That poling cues the press, which leads to more news stories and blog posts and Sunday talk shows. Finally, that national discussion further puts pressure on these oil supporting politicians to reconsider their politically short sighted support for oil.

Of course, if you don't even do the above simple social media suggestions, certainly nothing will happen, and certainly, we will all continue to pay oil companies their annual $4 billion dole on our dime. 

You can make a difference. Start now, and as always, please UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and public relations. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

Photo: Flickr/Napalm filled tires.

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