Subsidy Reform

Many industry subsidies have been around for mulitple decades, and really just need to be updated based on changing technology, advances in industry knowledge and practices, and/or changing nutritional needs. Farm subsidies and energy subsidies, in particular. 

But unless we update them – we’re wasting tax-payer dollars, and promoting bad practices. And we may (no – we are) hurting ourselves. Things simply need to be updated. That’s the nature of the world.

Farm subsidies, in particular, were originally set up to provide a buffer against bad crop-yield years, so that the farmers that were growing the crops that we depend on would be able to hedge their productivity against something solid – the sovereignty of U.S. Government. The government would essentially guarantee that if the farmers’ crops would not net a minimum value on the open market, the farmers could instead ‘sell’ their produce to the government in exchange for a fixed price for their harvest. This is not a bad idea. This is a good thing.

The problem is that, when the farm subsidies were originally put in place, we did not know as much about sustainable agriculture as we do now. Fifty-plus years later, we’ve learned a whole lot about better ways of doing things. But the old subsidies still continue, simply because they’ve not been updated. 

Nowadays, farm subsidies tend to heavily promote mono-culture agriculture, where all farmers are strongly incentivized to produce only ONE type (maybe two) of a crop. Fifty years later, we know now that this is extremely bad for both production, and the environment. 

For one, it greatly hurts soil fertility, because the nutrients needed for just one crop (or two) get greatly depleted over a short span of time, because the same plants are soaking up the same nutrients, over and over again. Hence – greatly reduced production. For another, the fertilizers that are then required to add back into the soil in order to continue production both reduce the profitability of a farmstead (because farmers have to pay for the fertilizers), and also cause runoff through rain-water erosion, that immediately causes extreme levels of toxicity in streams, rivers, and – finally – the ocean. AND all the alluvial flood-plains, in between. 

It’s literally worse than “taking a crap where you eat,” because – technically – literally taking a crap on a patch of soil would at the very least restore some of the nutrients that you’ve taken from that soil.

Fortunately, there is a solution: crop rotation and diversification. Certain crops actually replenish depleted nutrients back into the soil, so that you could conceivably just time your crop rotations so that you would not actually need to re-fertilize your soil, on a constant basis. The refertilization would take place very naturally. All a farmer would have to do is sell a few different types of crop every year. 

But – because they’re woefully outdated, unfortunately, the way our farm subsidies are set up – farmers are finacially incentivised to grow the same exact crop (or two) Every. Single. Year. 

That needs to change. 

Energy subsidies. Well, let’s just say they aren’t any better. Oil companies have been making history-setting record profits each year, for the past two decades (or longer). And that’s a good thing. They are an important part of our economy. And they provide an invaluable service to it. However – let’s be real here. Times change – the energy subsidies we give out to private companies haven’t changed – not in decades. Renewable energies were not a viable thing when these subsidies were first laid out. But now renewable energy resources are rapidly becoming so inexpensive that they will soon be cheaper even than the energy produced by the fossil-fuel industry.

And, while we’ve been sold the snake-oil of believing that fossil-fuels will never run out – c’mon now, let’s not fool ourselves – we know that cannot possibly be true. There’s only a finite amount of it. The ‘Oil Patch’ will eventually run out. Maybe not today – maybe not tomorrow – maybe not next decade – but someday soon it will disappear. What we have growing under our very feet, right now, is a renewable energy industry that’s just now starting to climb out of it’s cradle and take it’s place among the rest of the world’s industries, ready to give it’s endless resources to us – and CHEAP! This is an entirely new industry born from cutting-edge technology, but still simple to build and to learn, offering millions of new good-paying jobs. All they need is workers to fill the positions, to make it happen. Why would we not jump on that band-wagon?? We would be fools to ignore that call.

The problem: Energy Subsidies. Big Oil companies, because there are so few of them left after countless mergers, are keeping a strangle-hold on our energy sector. And they are helped by the fact that they literally get hand-outs from the government – no different than welfare checks – on top of their profits. I’m not suggesting that we abandon Oil. I am saying we should embrace the multiple forms of energy that are currently at our disposal, that we take maximum advantage of the limitless bounty of jobs and revenue that’re laying there, right at our feet for the taking. 

It’s an obvious choice. All we have to do is be ready to reassign the government subsidies that are currently going entirely to the fossil-fuel industries based on output, efficiency, and sustainability, and spread them out to ALL the similar resources that we have at our disposal. Foster free-market Capitalism. Bring back fair distribution of our subsidies in the energy sector. It just defies logic to continue hedging our bets on the fossil-fuel industry in the same way as has been done for over a century, when we know our oil reserves are getting thin. The rest of the world is already capitalizing early on the renewables industry while they can still get in early on a good deal, and maximize their profits. So – what’s holding us back??

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