Earlier this month The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a narrowly focussed report on certain subsidies to the energy industry at the behest of Reps. Fred Upton (R), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Ed Whitfield (R), Chairman of its Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Conservatives pounced on the bait claiming that renewable energy received more subsidies than other energy sources, but the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has poked holes in their logic.
In its executive summary the report cautions: “The scope of the present report is limited to direct federal financial interventions and subsidies that are provided by the federal government.” It goes on to say: “Given its scope, the report does not encompass all subsidies beneficial to energy sector activities (see text entitled ‘Not All Subsidies Impacting the Energy Sector Are Included in this Report’), which should be kept in mind when comparing this report to other studies that may use narrower or more expansive inclusion criteria.”
Yet last Friday Watchdog.org, a Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity project, latched on to the study and produced a piece titled “Solar and wind energy pack a wallop — in federal subsidies.”
In that piece Rob Nikolewski wrote: “Wind and solar make up but a small percentage of the U.S. energy portfolio, yet lead the pack when it comes to federal energy subsidies.” The EIA report found that in 2013 the wind industry received $5.9 billion in subsidies while the solar industry received $5.3 billion in federal subsidies. Coal received $1 billion in subsidies and natural gas and petroleum liquids received $2.3 billion in subsidies.
SEIA’s not taking it laying down. Spokesperson Ken Johnson credited Watchdog.org for including comments from the wind and solar industry—including his—but handily criticized the article and the conservatives using it as a bully stick. “Over the years, critics of clean energy have learned a few things about dirty politics. In their latest attempt to protect fossil fuel special interests – and stop the progress of renewable energy dead in its tracks – they have turned to a tried-and-true tactic: someone in Congress asks for a half-baked study on energy subsidies, designed to leave skewed results, and certain to draw the interest of government watchdog groups,” Johnson wrote. “Then, a front group for the Koch brothers steps in and starts trashing clean energy, and Americans find themselves confused.”
Johnson referred to other reports that looked into the federal subsidies given to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. “To put this in some perspective, DBL Investors looked at the historical incentives given to fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables—and the numbers weren’t even close: $447 billion for fossil fuels; $185.5 billion for nuclear; and less than $6 billion for renewables—less than 1 percent of the total amount given to fossil fuels and nuclear,” he stated.Tweet