Speaking before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Barack Obama declared that his plan to restore America’s economic prosperity “begins with energy.” The details of his proposed budgetary outline reveal what Obama meant. George W. Bush’s energy policy was based on tax breaks for polluters and making everyone else pay the costs of pollution. Obama’s decision to make polluters pay instead is a breath of fresh air:
Restoration of Superfund. In 2002, Bush shafted Superfund, the successful program to clean up the most toxic sites in America, by eliminating the tax on industrial polluters “that once generated about $1 billion a year.” President Obama’s budget reinstates Superfund taxes in 2011, restoring $17 billion over ten years to the depleted program.
Polluters Pay To Fight Climate Change And Make Work Pay. Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, instituted a voluntary program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 (they rose). President Obama calls for a mandatory cap on carbon emissions starting in 2012, expected to raise $645.7 billion over ten years. Instead of sending those revenues back to the polluters, $15 billion a year will go to clean energy technologies, with the rest funding the Making Work Pay tax credit to reduce payroll taxes for every working American.
Ending Tax Breaks For Fossil Fuel Industry. Big Oil had no better friends in the White House than Bush and Cheney, both oil men. Oil, natural gas, and coal companies enjoyed record profits even as the rest of America suffered from skyrocketing energy prices. Yet Bush protected numerous incentives and tax breaks for companies that drill and mine our shared resources. President Obama’s budget eliminates $31.75 billion in oil and gas company giveaways and increases the return from natural resources on federal lands by $2.9 billion over ten years.
In a column at the Center for American Progress, director of climate strategy Dan Weiss analyzes the budget and finds: “President Obama’s proposed energy budget is a ray of sunshine after an eight-year blackout. Congress must now make this clean energy future a reality.”