Overbrook Grantee 350.org helps introduce the End Polluter Welfare Act into Congress

On May 10th, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), joined by Overbrook Grantee 350.org, introduced the "End Polluter Welfare Act" legislation into Congress. The bill aims at cutting billions in federal subsidies currently given to the oil, coal, and gas industries.

The bill notes that fossil fuels are subsidized at 6 times the rate of renewable energies: $72 billion in 2002-2008, compared with $12.2 billion for renewables. By contrast, in 2011 alone, the five largest oil companies earned a combined $137 billion. Furthermore, the new bill would not only prevent millions of tons annual carbon emissions, it would save billions of dollars. For example, $12 billion would be saved by repealing a 2004 law that allows fossil fuel corporations to take deductions by claiming they are manufacturers, one of many such exemptions.

The efforts of Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison were supported by 350.org, a global grassroots coalition that seeks to curb carbon emissions by using social media and online campaigns to catalyze public protests. For instance, in the wake of the Heartland Institute's billboard attacks likening climate change believers to the Unabomber, it immediately organized online counter-protests. The backlash resulted in the pull-out by several high-profile funders from the Institute. 350.org also offers a host of resources on organizing events, protests, workshops, and campaigns.

While the bill will certainly face daunting challenges in both the House and the Senate (where climate change deniers grow ever more vocal), its introduction signals a new willingness to tackle entrenched energy interests. And, by partnering with next-generation grassroots organizations like 350.org and harnessing broad-based public support, such bills may finally have a chance to succeed.