During a slow period at the Electric Drive Transportation Association conference this afternoon, I walked a couple of miles across town to interview spokespeople for the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) – Senior Attorneys Jay Predergrass and Lisa Goldman. We talked largely about the subsidies that our US federal government provides to energy companies, insofar as ELI recently completed a comprehensive, independent study on the subject. “This is by far the most widely distributed report we’ve ever created,” Jay told me. “It’s been downloaded over 18,000 times.”
ELI painstakingly pulled together information on every form of expenditure or forbearance (e.g., a tax break) that is given to fossil fuels, carbon capture and sequestration, corn ethanol, and what it calls “traditional renewables” like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal.
The results are in the report linked above: fossil fuels get about $5.50 for every $1 going to renewables.
My main question, of course, is why our government is doing this. The role of subsidies is to promote things that are in the public interest. All the $70.2 billion doing to traditional fossil fuels is accomplishing is creating “a transfer of wealth from the public to the shareholders of oil, coal, and gas companies,” as Jay explained. Here’s $70 billion that could (should??) be going to promote things that actually are in the public interest: an end to our addiction to oil, to our empowering our enemies, to our poisoning our planet and everything living on it.
Interesting discussion, to be sure.