Green Scissors Brings Left and Right Together on Deficit Reduction

An unusual coalition of right- and left-leaning organizations released a study this week urging the new Congressional Super Committee to cut a third of a trillion dollars in environmentally harmful subsidies to begin solving US budget challenges.

"Green Scissors 2011" provides a roadmap to saving up to $380 billion over five years by curbing wasteful spending that harms the environment. That amounts to a full quarter of the savings the recent debt ceiling deal requires the Super Committee to designate, in half the time.

Four organizations released the report: progressive environmental group Friends of the Earth, deficit hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense, consumer watchdog Public Citizen and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute.

"While all four groups have different missions, histories, goals and ideas about the role of government," they write in the report, "we all agree that we can begin to overcome our nation’s budgetary and environmental woes by tackling spending that is not only wasteful but environmentally harmful."

The groups propose cutting many fossil fuel, nuclear and ethanol subsidies. Other targets include massive giveaways of publicly owned timber, poorly conceived road projects and a bevy of questionable Army Corps of Engineers water projects.

"We can go a long way toward solving our nation’s budget problems by cutting spending that harms the environment, and this report provides the Super Committee with a road map," says Friends of the Earth climate and energy tax analyst Ben Schreiber. "At a time of great polarization, Super Committee members can and should find common ground by ending wasteful polluter giveaways."

"At a time when working families are expected to belt-tighten, so too must wasteful public investments in mature, polluting technologies," says Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. "For too long lobbyists kept these undeserving programs and tax preferences for the fossil fuel and nuclear industry funded."

The report points to antiquated policies that should have been scrapped long ago – like the century old 1872 Mining Law that gives away precious metals – like gold and copper – on federal lands for free. 

It also targets $53 billion in lost oil and gas revenues from royalty free leases in federal waters granted in the late 1990s, as well as the $6 billion per year ethanol tax credit.

"The Green Scissors report is full of recommendations that will help us be good stewards of the environment while also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars," says Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI). "While we won’t all agree on every proposed cut, the report’s recommendations are a good place to start as we look for ways to put our nation on a more sustainable fiscal path."

Read the full Green Scissors report:

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