Economics for the Earth Blog

Green Scissors 2012 finds ending environmentally destructive federal programs would save almost $700 billion

Posted Jun. 26, 2012 / Posted by: Becca Connors

Left-Right coalition identifies practical steps Congress could take to slash deficits, save natural resources

WASHINGTON, D.C. — June 26, 2012 — Congress could move a long way toward solving the nation’s twin problems of spiraling budget costs and environmental degradation simply by cutting hundreds of billions in environmentally harmful federal subsidies, according to a groundbreaking new report from an unusual left-right coalition.
Produced by the progressive environmental group Friends of the Earth, budget watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense and free-market think tank the R Street Institute, Green Scissors 2012 identifies wasteful and environmentally harmful programs that could cost taxpayers almost $700 billion over the next decade. That represents about 63 percent of the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts Congress will be required to implement beginning into 2013 under the “sequestration” process.
“It is perverse that we are staring down the barrel of budget cuts that will lead to dirtier drinking water as we reward corporations with tens of billions of dollars a year to poison the public,” said Benjamin Schreiber, tax analyst with Friends of the Earth.  “We need to take the common sense solution of saving money by ending environmentally harmful spending.”
This year’s report proposes cuts to federal energy, agriculture, transportation, insurance and public land and water programs that either directly or indirectly place American land, air or water resources in jeopardy.  The report is a the result of a collaborative process between the three groups, and only those programs that all three agreed were both wasteful and environmentally harmful were included in the list of recommendations.
"Green Scissors shows just how much harm and damage big, overbearing government can do to our common home in the natural environment,” R Street President Eli Lehrer said. “The report makes a crystal clear case as to how cutting government spending can produce real benefits for society."
The proposed cuts include:
• $269.78 billion from energy programs, including $158.7 billion of fossil fuel subsidies
• $167.09 billion of agricultural subsidies, including $89.82 billion of federal crop insurance disaster aid
• $212.02 billion of transportation subsidies, including $125.80 billion of general revenue transfers to the Highway Trust Fund
• $101.8 billion of federal flood, crop and nuclear insurance subsidies
• $24.99 billion from wasteful or environmental damaging public lands and water projects
“As lawmakers argue over what to do about the enormous deficit and looming automatic budget cuts, we have come together to present them with almost $700 billion in cuts,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Whether it’s getting rid of high-risk energy loan guarantees, reining in wasteful crop insurance or ending lucrative oil and gas tax breaks, eliminating wasteful spending that harms the environment just makes sense. Taxpayers want Congress to stop bickering and get cutting. Green Scissors shows them where to start.”
To download a copy of the report, click

To learn more about the Green Scissors coalition, visit
Steve Ellis, (202) 546-8500 or;
Benjamin Schreiber, (202) 222-0752 or;
and Eli Lehrer, (202) 615-0586 or

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