Supporters of the fossil fuel industry like to portray expanded drilling as a free market triumph. But in Pennsylvania, taxpayers could have to pick up the tab for gas drillers to extract highly-valuable natural gas, to the tune of $1 billion over a decade.
Pennsylvania’s Republican controlled legislature is considering bills to pay for a processing project, pipeline construction, compressed natural gas vehicles, and fueling stations, in addition to subsidies to convince a huge Royal Dutch Shell refinery to set up shop. The refinery alone could cost over $1 billion over 25 years. About one-fifth of the money handed out to energy companies would come from a $200 million-a-year drilling tax on the industry, but the other four-fifths would come out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Many of the initiatives are intended to provide vehicles and infrastructure to promote the use of compressed natural gas vehicles, despite the fact that there is no clear climate reason to favor them over diesel vehicles.
Of course, these welfare-for-drillers policies are nothing compared to the costs that the government and society bear from CO2 emissions and other pollutants emitted by burning fossil fuels. But none of this means drillers are going to stop whining about the government “picking winners and losers” when it subsidizes clean fuels without the negative externalities of burning hydrocarbons.