I got a new phone over the weekend. My 13 year old daughter said, “Mom, that’s great! Now you can text me.” I welcome the chance for a new way to connect. Even a quick exchange of “LUVU” would be great. This morning I found something even better. I sent my daughter the link to a short video by Brittany Trilford, a 17 year old from Wellington, New Zealand, speaking before the opening plenary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. She urged the 130 heads of state in attendance to “save us [the world’s 3 billion children],” rather than simply “save face.”
One of the specific ways Brittany and the thousands of others gathered in Rio put on the table to “save us” was the end of fossil fuel subsidies. The world’s collective governments give almost one trillion dollars in subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry. Our youth are fed up with this. They want a more prosperous, sustainable future than we have provided them to date.
The Obama Administration can end one of these fossil fuel subsidies and save money at the same time. We need to charge more for the coal that is dug up from the public’s lands. A report released today documents almost $30 billion in lost revenue from leasing federal coal in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin at discount prices. Leasing of federal coal with little competition has resulted in the giveaway of public resources at bargain prices. In the 26 coal leases the federal government has awarded in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming since 1991, 22 have gone to a single bidder. These same issues surfaced 30 years ago. Congress put in place reforms in response to the scandal, but little has changed in practice. We cannot afford inaction any longer.
Too often in Washington, we retreat to our corners to regroup for another partisan, hostile encounter in the advocacy ring. Let’s meet this time as parents. Let’s give Brittany, my daughter, and other youth something different than more of the same. They are our children – I would rather save them, than save face.