[COLUMN] The clumsy way Congress picks energy winners

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

By Amy Harder | Axios

(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussions purposes only.)

Congress is doubling down on the least efficient and most expensive way to advance energy and climate policy: through a multi-billion dollar maze of tax subsidies.

Why it matters: The massive tax bill Congress is set to approve this week does little to simplify complicated tax laws that impact the energy industry, keeping intact most energy subsidies totaling tens of billions of dollars. The prospect of a tax on carbon emissions, which would both raise revenue for the federal government and help level the playing field between polluting and non-polluting energy resources, never had a chance.

“You’re just giving away money for no good purpose. It’s a very blunt instrument to change firms’ behavior. Subsidies are just the wrong way to go,” says Gilbert Metcalf, an economist at Tufts University. “Except for the political fact it’s easier to give people money than to tax them.”

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