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GRAPPLE | With Issues and Ideas

"It Was a Mistake" | Sympathy for the Devils | You Get What You Pay For | As the World Warms |
Woe is Us | Up to Speed

You Get What You Pay For

Peter and Maria Hoey (Source: Tommy McCall/Environmental Law Institute)

How to reduce the U.S. budget deficit? You could slash Medicare. You could raise the retirement age for Social Security. Or you could eliminate the billions of dollars in subsidies that taxpayers give to big oil companies. "I don't know if you've noticed," President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union speech, "but they're doing just fine on their own." (Big Oil's profits from 2001 to 2010 were $952 billion.)

Here's how subsidies to fossil fuel stack up against those to renewables, courtesy of the Environmental Law Institute. Note that most subsidies are not direct payments to coal miners with black lung disease, but rather things like tax loopholes. Also, the bulk of the renewable-energy subsidies go to corn ethanol, the environmental advantages of which are dubious. —Paul Rauber

NEXT: As the World Warms

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