Sunday, April 22, 2012

Not just Big Oil, there's also Nuclear Welfare 

The government spends on average $650 billion every year just on defense. But Speaker of the House John Boehner and the GOP always claim that "government doesn't create jobs, the private sector does."

How many jobs does government create with billions of dollars every year in taxpayer subsidies going to the big profitable oil companies? By contrast, the $500 million the government spent on Solyndra for solar panels almost seems meager, but the GOP won't stop harping about those loses.

And besides defense and big oil, the government also spends a ton of money in subsidies for the nuclear industry.

Nuclear welfare started with research and development. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, since 1948 the federal government has spent more than $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) on nuclear energy R&D. That is more than four times the amount spent on solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, bio-fuels, and hydropower combined.

But all that free federal R&D for the nuclear industry wasn't enough, they also wanted federal liability insurance too, which it got back in 1957 with the Price-Anderson Act. This federal liability insurance program for nuclear plants was meant to be temporary, but Congress repeatedly extended it, most recently through 2025.

But R&D and Price-Anderson insurance is just the tip of the iceberg. From tax breaks for uranium mining and loan guarantees for uranium enrichment, to special depreciation benefits and lucrative federal tax breaks for every kilowatt hour from new plants, nuclear power is heavily subsidized at every phase.

The industry also bilks taxpayers when plants close down with tax breaks for decommissioning plants. Further, it is estimated that the federal costs for the disposal of radioactive nuclear waste could be as much as $100 billion.

Even with all of those subsidies, the private sector still will not agree to finance a new nuclear plant, so wealthy nuclear corporations recently secured access to $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees.

Exelon takes in $33 billion in revenue annually and is the leading operator/owner of nuclear reactors in the United States. On the verge of retirement, Exelon CEO John Rowe's total compensation last year jumped 48 percent, to $10.7 million.

Another corporation, Entergy, with revenues of more than $11 billion annually, is the second largest. J Wayne Leonard has been CEO of Entergy for 11 years. Total compensation last year: $27.32 million (5-Year Compensation Total $89.43 million)

Someone needs to tell the Speaker of the House that government created very good-paying jobs for these CEOs.

Together, just those two companies alone, own or operate almost one-third of U.S. reactors, and based on their revenue they are doing pretty well. So why do they need endless federal welfare for their industry year after year after year? Will it ever end?

Someone needs to tell the GOP that "government" (we, the taxpayers) are not only the biggest job creators, but are also the best paying. Just ask any CEO in the defense, oil, space, and nuclear industries (the top 1%).

Also, somebody needs to ask Speaker of the House John Boehner and the GOP about how many jobs the government created for the big tobacco companies.

* Excerpted and edited from an article by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ryan Alexander for the Huffington Post called Stop the Nuclear Industry Welfare Program

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