US Spends 10 Times More to Subsidize Fossil Fuels than to Support Public Education–There is an Ethics Lesson for You

The ongoing theme has been how misinformation is used to dissuade the public on multiple critical issues. Today, we examine how Koch-funded talking heads parrot false information about how NM extremists are getting rich advocating for a transition to renewables. We present an excellent op-ed calling out the Koch funded nonsense and then a link to the article on fossil fuel subsidies.

Opportunities for Today

Santa Fe Pride Gearing Up For Annual Celebration June 29 Hosting a Series of Events leading up to the annual celebration.  “This year’s 2019 Santa Fe Pride celebration commemorates not only the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, but also showcases the collective voices within our New Mexico LGBTQIA+ community and beyond,” Michael Davis, president of the Human Rights Alliance, which organizes the annual event, said Tuesday in an email. “We hope that this year’s message of ‘Live, Love and Community’ will resonate with all of New Mexico citizens.”  The kick off event is tonight, with a showing of the documentary film Before Stonewall is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at The Screen, 1600 St. Michael’s Drive. Tickets, which can be purchased online at ccasantafe.org or at the door, are $15.

WIPP & Holtec Panel Discussion with Stephanie Garcia Richards, 6pm-7:30pm at Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Santa Fe.  We’ve been writing about the WIPP and the immanent threat of a far more dangerous proposal: storing spent fuel rods in southern NM. This panel will not only be a great way to find out more about both operations, but will be a way to mingle with others who share Retake’s concerns that Holtec is a very bad idea. No doubt we need a permanent and safe solution for how to permanently store these highly volatile and highly toxic materials, something we should have thought about 50 years ago. But just because a problem is urgent and difficult, doesn’t mean southern NM needs to be the “solution.”  Come find out more.

For more about who is on the WIPP-Holtec Panel and about the Santa Fe Pride events (and there is a series of them almost every day leading up to June 29 click here to go to our Actions & Events page.

More Dissembling From the Gas & Oil Industries and Our Legislators

I was forwarded the op-ed below by Charlotte Lipson, one of the advocates Roxanne and I met with on our tour of CD-2.  She has been sending me articles since and this one in particular is germane to last week’s post about Medicare for All. In that post, I outlined how Koch-funded researchers were spoon feeding Democratic leadership and the media false information about the cost of Medicare for All, its popularity among the American people, and how with Medicaid buy-in we could achieve universal healthcare. All assertions are entirely false, as described in last week’s post, Health Care Industries, Democratic Party Leadership, and the Media Spread Lies About Medicare for All, but that doesn’t prevent them from lying and disseminating their lies through their parrot expert talking heads on television and mainstream print media. Well, as today’s post illustrates the Koch brothers do not limit their interests to healthcare, but are even more immersed in protecting the fossil fuel industry.

Below is an op-ed written by Peter Goodman who also hosts a radio show in Las Cruces, a show I’ve been on twice.  He rails against two op-eds published in the Las Cruces, one from State Senator Rod Montoya (R-Farmington) and one from Larry Behrens, who in his op-ed doesn’t identify himself, just a well-meaning, concerned member of the community–except that his day job is serving as a senior lobbyist for the gas and oil industry. Goodman does a great job of outlining illustrating the same phenomenon we described in the Health Care Industry article referenced above. After his piece we provide a link to another article that offers data on the shocking degree to which the US government subsidizes the gas and oil industry. Yes, this is true: the US spends TEN TIMES as much money subsidizing the fossil fuel industry as it does on public education. Read that again. An ongoing refrain, just another one of those abnormal realities we grow to accept as business as usual in the USA.  Read on.

One recent day the two “guest columnists” in our local newspaper both savaged the renewable energy movement.  Local citizens with strong feelings on these issues?  Nope. 

One Op-Ed was attributed to Larry Behrens, with no further information. The second writer, inadvertently unnamed, was State Senator Rod Montoya (Rep. – Farmington). Both have worked desperately to undermine New Mexico’s new energy law.  Montoya’s guest column complains that Resources Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst consulted with Interwest Energy Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of wind, solar, and storage companies, and conservation organizations seeking to expand deployment of a reliable, cost-effective and diverse renewable energy portfolio. Sounds good. Montoya’s beef is that IEA was her previous employer. However, IEA is not a company, she consulted many entities, and Montoya doesn’t identify anything secretive or improper – let alone allege that she profited financially.  Behrens is Western States Director for Power the Future, a self-described “energy advocacy organization” founded by Daniel Turner as “pushback” against “radical environmental groups that come into small towns in America and close coal mines.” He says those groups “take away all your rights” and harm rural communities.  Turner’s previous gigs include Director of Strategic Communications at the Charles Koch Institute and VP of Communications in another Koch-related nonprofit. Turner declined to answer questions about whether or not the Koch Brothers were among the energy-industry-loving rich folks who bankrolled PTF. The Charles Koch Institute is not noted for its concern about pollution or climate-change – or its fair coverage of energy issues. On climate-change, Turner says, “if you don’t like energy, don’t use it.”  Behrens, a former Susanna Martinez staffer, should fit right in at PTF. His Op-Ed warns against “special interest groups” – by which he means public-interest organizations concerned about climate-change. He represents the special interests, such as coal.

Behrens’s drivel attacks the Under 2 Coalition mostly for being a coalition of entities from outside New Mexico, and he’d rather hear ideas from Farmington. To make sure readers get the point, he prominently mentions “California Governor Jerry Brown” and “Manhattan,” as if Brown were Vladimir Putin and Manhattan Gomorrah. Cheap Rhetoric 101.  I looked up Under 2. It sounds great. California and a major German state started it in 2014 to ramp up the fight against climate change. It aims to limit global warming to below 2°C and to limit the annual carbon footprint to under 2 tons per capita by 2050. Others soon joined, including British Columbia and Ontario, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and Baja and Jalisco. Its rapid growth helped persuade national governments to adopt the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Under 2 Coalition now includes more than 220 members, representing more than 1.3 billion people and about 43% of the global economy.

What’s not to like? Well, Behrens’s paymasters make their money from non-renewable energy. Montoya represents San Juan County, and, despite the massive methane hot spot at Four Corners, he keeps trying to keep the coal plants alive, no matter how they harm our planet.  Both these men essentially get paid by the energy industry. Slowing progress toward renewable energy is part of their job descriptions.  Behrens says joining the Under -2 Coalition would be “declaring independence from economic reality.” But glaciers and polar-ice are melting, seas are rising, and coal is outmoded and uneconomical. Maybe corporations trying to revive the coal industry and fight renewable energy are living in a zip code far from economic reality.  [The column above Sunday, 16 June 2019, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper’s website the newspaper’s website and KRWG’s website.  A spoken version will air on KRWG Radio Wednesday and Saturday June 22 and on KTAL-LP Community Radio, 101.5 FM, on Thursday.  The spoken version is also available at the KRWG website. Roxanne and I have appeared on Peter’s show and met him again briefly on our tour of CD-2. His sense of irony and humor is much appreciated.  Nice piece.]

Also posted in the online version of Peter’s op-ed were the following comments.

  • It particular annoys me when large and polluting industries call do-gooder entities such as environmental organizations, human rights organizations, or Common Cause “special interest groups.”   They are not.  They do not represent special interests.  They represent the general public (or earth’s) interest.  One need not agree with them; but neither in intent nor in effect are they “special-interest groups” in the sense that an industry alliance promoting the interests of its profit-making creators is a special-interest group.  Even a labor union could qualify as a “special-interest group”  But Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, the ACLU, or Common Cause hardly seem to merit that label.

Peter also guided me to another article published by Forbes magazine that describes how the US currently awards the fossil fuel industry subsidies that are more than ten times the level of subsidies for public education. Ten times.  I wonder how that was worked through Congress? From Forbes:


Despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, the IMF’s findings expose how fossil fuels continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding. The report explains that fossil fuels account for 85% of all global subsidies and that they remain largely attached to domestic policy. Had nations reduced subsidies in a way to create efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015, the International Monetary Fund believes that it “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.”

The Forbes article goes on to describe the staggering level of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry from major industrial countries world wide. In the US our $649 billion subsidy is ten times our investment in public education. You can’t make this up.

A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers.”

And so, at a time when climate catastrophe and now even human extinction are being reported as an immanent possibility, perhaps even a likelihood, and the primary cause of this crisis is our exploration for and use of fossil fuels, while cheaper cleaner alternatives are available, our global strategy is to sign well-intended accords (Paris) and then spend trillions propping up the fossil fuel industry.  It is the 1% who are running this tragi-comedy of errors.  Do they not have children?

Here in NM, on Retake Our Democracy’s radio show, Speaker Brian Egolf  spoke glowingly about how we would be drilling for the next ten years in NM and using those revenues to build infrastructure. What infrastructure? Our bridges to extinction?  To hear more from the Speaker click here.  At 16 minutes into the show, he talks about how we will not be turning away from oil anytime soon. Then later 19M30S in he talks about how the Lands Commissioner has no authority to limit drilling on State law. For more offenses, at 23M 45S, he talks about how the Health Security Act would cost three times the state budget, is totally naïve, and that Medicaid buy-in is the Governor’s preference–this despite two prior NM fiscal studies finding that HSA would indeed be affordable and would reduce health care costs and vastly improve access to care.  While I have identified three passages to the show, the entire interview is illuminating. Apparently, NM has solved most of its problems in the last legislative session.

The time may well be coming for some far more dramatic actions than anything we’ve done before. A worldwide General Strike is mobilizing and slated for September 20 in the US and September 27 in Europe. The strike is to be followed by seven days of disruptive action. Last night, I attended a meeting of Santa Fe youth climate activists who have completed a week of intensive community organizing training with Earth Care and they have ideas that make sense (unlike everything Peter and I have written above). There will be a meeting on July 13 at 2pm at 1420 Cerrillos where their plans will be described. Time to step back and follow. We “adults” don’t seem to be making much headway.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

2 thoughts on “US Spends 10 Times More to Subsidize Fossil Fuels than to Support Public Education–There is an Ethics Lesson for You

  1. Glad to hear there is a group of Santa Fe youth climate activists who are working on something for us to participate in on Sept. 20. Hey, I’m 75 and I’ll “show up” at whatever nonviolent activities those kids put together. I had my granddaughter help me get on Instagram so I could follow Greta Thunberg and her fridaysforfuture that is happening all over the world (maybe not in Rio Rancho??), and the Parkland kids who organized March For Our Lives in less than 6 weeks after their friends were shot at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School. Their tweets in response to the NRA and some of the Fox News hosts are hilarious and they have more followers!! They’ve created the Ban Assault Weapons Now movement to collect more than 766,000 signatures to get their initiative on the ballot in Florida in 2020. Every time David Hogg asks for money I donate! So I agree “Time to step back and follow”, and donate, and defend our kids every time I hear an a person of my generation criticize them because I am a sad, mad grandma about what we have left for them! As far as I am concerned, they are our hope for a future!

    Thank you, Paul and Roxanne for creating this resource.

Leave a Reply