Thursday, September 17, 2009

Possible end to fossil fuel subsidies

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Think of all of the other things we could be doing with that money ... like finding cheap, clean alternatives to the cheap, dirty choices we have today.

According to a leaked letter, the Obama administration is set to propose ending fossil fuel subsidies next week at the Pittsburgh G20. The letter, authored by Michael Froman who is an Obama advisor on international economic affairs, calls on the G20 to eliminate all fossil fuel and electricity subsidies, as a “logical step in combating global climate change.”

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies is a great idea, if it’s done right.  This is certainly the right time, but the G20 is likely not the right place.

In general, it’s so obvious, you can’t really believe it hasn’t happened sooner.  With all the hoopla about cap and trade, carbon offsets, and parts per million, wouldn’t a good place to start be to stop supporting big oil and dirty coal with our tax dollars?  We can then use that money to finance a transition to clean energy—both in the U.S. and globally.

The principle is simple and clear: You can’t really say you’re committed to the fight against climate change if you’re still funding oil and coal.  If you’re in a hole, stop digging.  Many global leaders including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Sir Nicholas Stern, Al Gore, and John Browne (the former Chief Executive of BP) have all spoken out against the ongoing practice of subsidizing fossil fuels with public funds.  Obama campaigned on the idea, and the administration has already proposed eliminating some domestic subsidies in the 2010 budget.

But the reality, is, as usual, stickier.  In the U.S., calls for subsidy removal tend to be answered by the oil industry and their allies with dire predictions of rising gas prices and consumer pain thus leading to unemployed politicians.  This is because the poor oil industry couldn’t possibly have anything less than record profits, and they’ll continue to either use our tax money to do it, or they’ll jack up prices on us.  In other businesses involving addiction, this is called a protection racket.

Read the entire Oil Change International post here.

How fossil fuels make your lights work:

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