Feds Created Over 1,000 New Subsidies Since 1990

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

The number of federal subsidy programs in the U.S. has skyrocketed since 1990, according to a chart published Thursday by the libertarian Cato Institute.

Cato concluded that the number of federal subsidy programs has almost doubled from 1,176 in 1990 to 2,282 in 2014.

Many of these new subsidies benefit wind and solar power. In 1999, green subsides were a mere 17 percent of total subsidies; by 2007 that rose to 29 percent. Over the same time, natural gas and petroleum-related subsidies declined from 25 percent to 13 percent of total subsidies, according to the pro-energy industry Institute for Energy Research.

Solar and wind power get 326 and 69 times more in subsidies than coal, oil, and natural gas per amount of energy generated, according to 2013 Department of Energy data collected by Forbes. Green energy in the U.S. got $13 billion in subsidies during 2013, compared to $3.4 billion in subsidies for conventional sources and $1.7 billion for nuclear, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Most solar subsidies go to residential installations and include a 30 percent federal tax credit, while wind is usually industrial scaled and is thus somewhat more efficient per dollar spent. Solar-leasing companies install rooftop systems, which cost a minimum of $10,000, at no upfront cost to the consumer. Companies do this because the state and federal subsidies are so massive that such behavior is actually profitable. Solar companies simply cannot compete without government support.

Despite these mammoth subsidies, solar and wind power produced a mere 0.6 and 4.7 percent respectively of all electricity used in American last year, according to the EIA. Meanwhile, coal power and natural gas both produced 33 percent; nuclear power produced 20 percent of all American electricity the same year.

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