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Dealing with the Devil

Even when something starts out as a good idea, it turns to crap once the Republicans get involved. In order to get a $57 billion extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans, the president felt he was forced to do a deal with the devil which now includes more than $800 billion in tax credits. In order to get a few weak Democrats on board with the Republican plan the President is trading us further into debt.

It has tax breaks for restaurants, movie producers and NASCAR track owners. It has a special “economic development credit” for investors in American Samoa.

As if all those cute earmarks for the party of No Earmarks weren’t egregious enough, we now find that the tax cut compromise bill contains  tax cuts for liquid coal fuel, probably one of the dirtiest, most inefficient fuels on the planet. Liquid coal produces twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline and uses four gallons of water for every gallon of fuel produced. Section 704 of the proposed Senate version of the compromise would give coal companies a 50-cent credit for each gallon of liquid death produced. The provision would cost taxpayers $400 million per plant for each year it is in place. Oh yeah, and $7 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors.

Do we really need to provide huge subsidies to coal companies while the economy is in the toilet? Peabody Energy reported a doubling of its profits last quarter to $224 million.  The 50-cent per gallon subsidy would be on top of all the other subsidies that we already provide to producers of the worlds most polluting fuel. If liquid coal is such a good idea, let the coal companies prove it on their own dime. Liquid coal technology cannot exist without massive federal subsidies and all the while, coal producers will whine about the cost of “excessive” mine regulation and miners will die. As David Roberts has said;

Coal is filthy. It destroys ecosystems to dig it up. It kills the people who work around it. Coal plants throw particulates in the air and causes respiratory ailments. They throw mercury in the water and causes birth defects. They throw CO2 into the atmosphere and causes global warming. The coal industry corrupts the political process. It lies to the public about global warming, and mine safety, and coal reserves, and everything else. It leeches money and opportunity out of the states where it is based.

Extending unemployment benefits to people who really need the help is a good idea. It is something we must do. The compromise plan will likely get enough votes to pass, but at what cost to the budget and to the environment? Sooner rather than later, President Obama must learn that compromising with the Billionaires for Profit Club can only be done on their terms.

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