The paper industry's titans have teamed up with practitioners of the legislative black arts to turn their sludge into a slick tax loophole.
What do you call a mix of "black liquor," biofuels, diesel, and a generous splash of tax subsidies?
If you have Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho shake this cocktail vigorously and serve it in a golden goblet provided by corporate lobbyists, I've got the answer: Koch Brothers Moonshine.
Black liquor, a byproduct of the paper-making process, is an alcoholic sludge that paper mills use to fuel their operations. Fine -- creative, even. But then, the paper giants turned from creative to cabal, teaming with Crapo and other practitioners of the legislative black arts to turn their sludge into a slick tax loophole.
In 2007, Crapo and a covey of corporate lobbyists quietly made their "liquor" eligible for a subsidy meant to help wean America off oil by encouraging the production of a biofuel-gasoline mix to power cars and trucks. Not so fine.
One, vehicles can't use mill sludge as a fuel. Two, rather than mixing biofuel into their sludge, the paper-makers add diesel!
So these sneaks are siphoning billions of dollars from a clean fuels program by making a dirty fuel dirtier.
Who's profiting from this load of moonshine? Right at the top are the infamous, far-right-wing Koch brothers. These secretive, multi-billionaire political extremists have long been financing everything from dozens of corporate front groups to the tea party in their relentless effort to impose their plutocratic agenda on our country. One major way they pay for this onslaught is by tapping directly into the blatant corporate welfare of the black liquor loophole. The Koch industrial empire includes Georgia Pacific, one of America's largest paper-makers -- and it's the happy recipient of as much as a billion bucks a year from this perverted biofuel subsidy.
A dirty windfall from a dirty fuel is underwriting dirty politics. The whole thing stinks.
Jim Hightower is a
radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.