Energy tax breaks are an old virtue or vice of the tax code, depending on where one sits. The amounts to various industries have varied over time, with fossil fuel subsidies being highest in the early 1980s and renewable subsidies the highest in 2009. But the tax code has constantly had billions of dollars of treats for nuclear power, fossil fuels and renewables.
Fossil fuels biggest year was 1983 when they received over $12 billion in tax credits or subsidies when measured in 2010 constant dollars, according to Robert Stemple's column in the October 16th NYT. By contrast renewables received little tax code support until the last 10 years. Renewables biggest year for tax support was 2009, when they got $10 billion.
Both renewables and fossil fuels saw declining tax support in 2010, with renewables securing about $7 billion and fossil fuels $2.7 billion.
Semple also notes that alcohol fuels, mainly corn ethanol, received $6 billion and energy efficiency $2 billion in 2010. New nuclear plants have access to massive federal loan guarantees, production tax credits, and more. The tax code has treats for all of America's energy industries.
And what is the money doing? 2010 saw an energy boom in the USA, with rising oil, gas, wind, solar, biodiesel, and ethanol production. Oil imports have declined from 60% to 47% of all oil consumed. Energy consumption fell to 2000 levels. Electricity and natural gas prices to consumers have been favorable.
Perhaps these subsidies are delivering value for dollars invested.