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Restating the Obvious, But With The Data to Back It Up

September 25, 2009

Dave Roberts at Grist.org has a piece summarizing the findings of a study from the Environmental Law Institute and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars that has added up the subsidies and tax breaks received by the fossil fuels industry and the clean energy industry. Unsurprisingly, the fossil fuel industry comes out way ahead, receiving $16.3 bil in direct spending and $53.9 bil in tax breaks. On the other hand, traditional renewables received $6 bil in direct spending and $6.2 in subsidies. The graph unfortunately includes corn ethanol under the category of renewable energy when, as Green Inc. explains, corn ethanol in fact has a net negative impact on the environment relative to gasoline and it is more expensive. (If you’re still on the corn ethanol bandwagon, it must be getting lonely.)

As the title implies, this is far from unexpected. Considering how much Big Oil spends influencing American politicians, it’s no surprise that they’re getting a pretty sweet deal. On the other hand, considering how detrimental our reliance on fossil fuels is to our environment, our security and our health, it’s completely ridiculous. A return to true free-market economics would, somewhat ironically, benefit the burgeoning cleantech business while hurting the fossil fuel companies. Instead of giving grants and subsidies to companies that produce clean energy, electric cars and other fossil fuel competitors, the more efficient method to foster the development of carbon-free technologies would be to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. That is, of course, easier said than done but this graph would an integral part of any case made.

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