Despite the solar industry outpacing fossil fuel companies, growing 12 times faster than the overall economy, we may never shake our national addiction to fossil fuels so long as we continue to subsidize big oil to the tune of five trillion dollars a year, 6.5% of global GDP.
According to a study in the journal World Development, subsidies to fossil fuel–coal, petroleum, natural gas, electricity–companies in 2013 were $4.9 trillion; in 2015, they were $5.3 trillion.
Study authors argue these figures are significant because they are indicative of how taxpayers’ money is spent on fossil fuel consumption that further contributes to the damages of climate change.
According to a piece in The Guardian:
“According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly. Third, the subsidies discourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that compete with the subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, subsidies are very inefficient means to support low-income households.”
According to study authors, the top three subsidizers of fossil fuels, in order, are China, the United States, and Russia.
One author, Dr. Coady, said:
“A key motivation for the paper was to increase awareness among policy makers and the public of the large subsidies that arise from pricing fossil fuels below their true social costs—this broader definition of subsidies accounts for the many negative side effects associated with the consumption of these fuels. By estimating these costs on a global scale, we hope to stimulate an informed policy debate and provide renewed impetus for policy reforms to reap the large potential benefits from more efficient pricing of fossil fuels in terms of improved public finances, improved population health and lower carbon emissions.”
From the Right, we are told repeatedly we cannot afford single-payer healthcare, free pre-K through college education, Social Security, or Medicare.
We are told climate change mitigation is “too expensive.”
We are told the poor just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
This study argues it is not a matter of having the money.
We have the money.
How do we choose to invest it?
Featured image from Energy Trends Insider.