A Free-Market Energy Blog

Eternal Vigilance: Federal Energy Spending Tracker (www.energysubsidies.org)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 12, 2013

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”

Wendell Phillips (1852)

Government wealth transfers from the many to the few is called the concentrated benefits, diffuse costs problem. Certain companies and projects get the loot–one hundred cents on the dollar–while the rest of us (taxpayers) pay an incalculable fraction per redistributionist dollar.

Democracy is perverted too because the majority would say “no” if directly asked but are far too busy tending to their own (nonpolitical) lives.  Michael Giberson found this in a 1935 book explaining the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1932:

Although . . . theoretically the interests supporting and opposed to legislation . . . are approximately equal, the pressures upon Congress are extremely unbalanced. That is to say, the pressures supporting the tariff are made overwhelming by the fact that the opposition is negligible.

And so the common-good side must mobilize to expose such exploitation that naturally occurs in a mixed economy where organized interests infest government.

Big Government Energy (BGE)

Government goes to those who show up. BGE–wind power, on-grid solar, ethanol, and battery/EVs–are camped in Washington. They are decades into the rent-seeking game because their goods (bads?) depend on it.

That is why their millions of dollars of loot must be tracked and exposed. Enter www.energysubsidies.org, just launched by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) to allow policymakers, government officials, researchers, journalists, and the general public to get the factual story of taxpayer-funded energy subsidies, including federal loan guarantees, grants, and various tax credits.

The new site is a “comprehensive database with the power to provide user-friendly, searchable, sortable and easy-to-find information about energy spending across all federal agencies” in place of the government’s own “duplication, opaque reporting, and inadequate data standards.”

Explained IER president Tom Pyle:

Taxpayers have a right to know how government is spending their money, and the ongoing debate over federal energy subsidies – whether the federal government should provide financial support to renewables, coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear power – must be based on objective facts regarding current levels of government support.

Widespread misperceptions as to the nature and extent of government subsidies can lead to erroneous policy decisions. In recent years, the wind, solar and biofuels industries have been feeding generously at the federal trough, to the extent that green energy spending is seven times greater under the current administration than the previous one.

More and more, layers of duplicative programs provide opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse. Today, we are left with a mishmash of subsidies, mandates, and set-asides for pet energy technologies that are more expensive and unreliable than the energy sources they are supposed to replace. The new IER database will be an important tool for Americans to decide what role the U.S. government should play in the energy sector.

The subsidy database covers the last four fiscal years (FY 2009–2012) for all sources of energy across all government agencies.

Major Subsidy Areas

Grants (Agency, State, Amount, Fiscal Year)

Loans (Agency, State, Amount, Fiscal Year)

Tax Subsidies

Oil, Gas, and Coal



Energy Conservation


Popular Searches


Rural Energy for America Program

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program

Fossil Energy Research and Development


This website ends with an Interactive Energy Application:

IER strongly advocates for ending all government energy subsidies. No one subsidy is better than the other, but it’s also important to realize that dollar-for-dollar, subsidies for energy sources like wind and solar yield shockingly low levels of energy output.

Click here to see how $100 spent on different energy subsidies compares to energy output for that source.


Transparency. Accountability. Fairness. Common-good economics ….. That is what the Obama Administration raised glasses to back in 2008–and what has fallen victim to a statist agenda desperately trying to find traction.

Free-market think tanks must come to the rescue–and in the case of energy now has with this new tracker.


  1. Miner49er  

    I haven’t drilled down into the website yet, but a review of the headings indicates that it is missing two kinds of energy subsidy. The first is mandates, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards these force-feed high cost forms of energy and require end-use consumers to pay for them.

    The second is the imposition of useless burdens on low-cost forms of energy (coal, oil, gas) that increase their costs and make otherwise uneconomical forms of energy (wind, solar, biomass) less uncompetitive.

    I hope your website will deal with these impositions.


  2. Miner49er  

    P.S. Subsidies for nuclear power also include loan guarantees and government indemnifications against various liabilities.

    Tax provisions for recovery of sunk investments through depreciation, depletion or amortization should not be considered subsidies. These are common to all businesses, and only arise because the tax code requires that certain investments be capitalized rather than expensed.


  3. Robin Millican  

    RE: Miner49er’s comments, here’s a link to IER’s methodology for the website: http://data.instituteforenergyresearch.org/methodology/

    This explains that there are certain subsidies that were not included on the site due to the difficulty in quantifying their impact, which include regulations/mandates and the indemnifications you mentioned. We do, however, intend to add analysis of regulations and mandates at a later date. It also clarifies that various provisions for cost recovery were not included for the reason you gave.


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