Subsidies for fossil fuels that cause climate change have soared since 2013, a new study from the International Monetary Fund has revealed. Oil, gas and coal costs will be subsidized to the tune of US$5.3 trillion a year in 2015. The last time the IMF ran the data it calculated they were worth $1.9 trillion. Economists say the latest figures are more accurate as they represent the “true” cost of energy, which includes the environmental, health and climate impacts of burning fossil fuels. “Over half of the increase is explained by more refined country-level evidence on the damaging effects of energy consumption on air quality and health,” IMF officials Benedict Clements and Vitor Gaspar wrote in a blog. The figure is larger than the health spending of all the world’s governments combined, a reckoning the pair called “shocking”. Coal is the biggest recipient of polluting subsidies, the IMF found, given its combined impact on air quality and high carbon emissions. “The most dramatic difference, compared with the pre-tax figures, is for coal which is the biggest source of post-tax subsidies, amounting to 3.0% of global GDP in 2011 and rising to 3.9% in 2015,” says the study. The World Bank
The fossil fuel industry receives $5.3 trillion a year in government subsidies, despite its disastrous toll on the environment, human health, and other global inequality issues, a new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published Monday has found. That means that governments worldwide are spending $10 million every minute to fund energy companies—more than the estimated public health spending for the entire globe, IMF economists Benedict Clements and Vitor Gaspar wrote in a blog post accompanying the report (pdf). “These estimates are shocking,” Clements and Gaspar wrote. “The number for 2015 is more than double the US$2 trillion we had previously estimated for 2011.” Subsidies occur in two ways, IMF Fiscal Affairs Department directors Sanjeev Gupta and Michael Keen explained in a separate blog post published Monday: “[P]re-tax” subsidies—which occur when people and businesses pay less than it costs to supply the energy—are smaller than a few years back. But “post-tax” subsidies—which add to pre-tax subsidies an amount that reflects the environmental, health and other damage that energy use causes and the benefit from favorable VAT or sales tax treatment—remain extremely high, and indeed are now well above our previous estimates. The damages from energy use include “premature deaths through local air pollution, exacerbating congestion and other
I’ve mentioned in previous posts here on The Archdruid Report the educational value of the comments I receive from readers in the wake of each week’s essay. My post two weeks ago on the death of the internet was unusually productive along those lines. One of the comments I got in response to that post gave me the theme for last week’s essay, but there was at least one other comment calling for the same treatment. Like the one that sparked last week’s post, it appeared on one of the many other internet forums on which The Archdruid Report, and it unintentionally pointed up a common and crucial failure of imagination that shapes, or rather misshapes, the conventional wisdom about our future. Curiously enough, the point that set off the commenter in question was the same one that incensed the author of the denunciation mentioned in last week’s post: my suggestion in passing that fifty years from now, most Americans may not have access to electricity or running water. The commenter pointed out angrily that I’d claimed that the twilight of industrial civilization would be a ragged arc of decline over one to three centuries. Now, he claimed, I was saying that it was
What will our society look like as it is forced to migrate away from fossil fuels and confront more serious climate change and dwindling resources? With Richard Heinberg.
Plus, the many benefits of vinegar, prevention abilities of physical activity, and information from Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren.
Since its founding in 1865, The Nation has been a home for writers instigating, reporting on and arguing about struggles for social and economic justice. We have held fast to our “Nation Ideals”— from racial justice to feminism, from a fair economy to civil liberties, from environmental sustainability to peace and disarmament—throughout our 150-year history. During our anniversary year, TheNation.com will highlight one Nation Ideal every month or two. We’ll celebrate by asking prominent contemporary Nation voices to read and respond to important pieces from our archive. Below, Zoë Carpenter reflects on two 1970 Nation articles on the emergence of the environmental movement. Learn more about our 150th anniversary events and special contenthere. * * * Louisiana is not a place that usually inspires hope for the environment. Nearly a century of oil and gas activity has cut the state’s swamps and bayous into vanishing ribbons. Hundreds of millions of gallons of oil have been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Underground caverns hollowed out by petrochemical companies are collapsing and creating sinkholes, some swallowing entire communities. Industry has fouled state politics, too, such that elected leaders reward corporations with $1.8 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks, while starving healthcare, education, and other public services. Several months ago I
What is the real story of energy and the economy? We hear two predominant energy stories. One is the story economists tell: The economy can grow forever; energy shortages will have no impact on the economy. We can simply substitute other forms of energy, or do without. Another version of the energy and the economy story is the view of many who believe in the “Peak Oil” theory. According to this view, oil supply can decrease with only a minor impact on the economy. The economy will continue along as before, except with higher prices. These higher prices encourage the production of alternatives, such wind and solar. At this point, it is not just peak oilers who endorse this view, but many others as well. In my view, the real story of energy and the economy is much less favorable than either of these views. It is a story of oil limits that will make themselves known as financial limits, quite possibly in the near term—perhaps in as little time as a few months or years. Our underlying problem is diminishing returns—it takes more and more effort (hours of workers’ time and quantities of resources), to produce essentially the same
RECENTLY, THERE HAS BEEN a growing discussion of climate change as a moral issue, both in academia and in religious communities. This past fall I spoke at three religion and climate change conferences in as many months, including a conference at Harvard Divinity School, “Spiritual and Sustainable: Religion Responds to Climate Change,” and in June 2015 I will join many global thinkers at a process theology conference on climate change in Claremont, California. The highly anticipated encyclical from Pope Francis on climate change will undoubtedly contribute and bring attention to this discourse. Frequently, however, the acknowledgment that climate change is a moral issue on which religious people should engage is the end of the conversation. There has not been nearly enough discussion about what it means to engage with this moral challenge. We have not yet answered how and where we should be taking our stand in response to climate change. I argue that when religious people answer the call of the climate crisis, we must bring real moral leadership to the climate justice movement. The first kind of engagement with the climate crisis is usually a change in consumer behavior, reducing one’s personal carbon footprint. In our consumer-focused society, it
In an open letter to Shell’s Ben Van Beurden, the UK’s former top climate envoy says now is the time for him to show leadership Dear Mr. van Beurden – one month ago, at the IP Week dinner in London, you gave a speech calling on your peers, as you put it in your title, to be “Less Aloof, More Assertive” on climate change. Given your prominence as CEO of Shell and the resurgence of interest in climate, your speech has rightly provoked debate. Perhaps I could set out some reflections that passed through my mind as I studied it. I feel privileged to be doing so from this platform. I hope the CFE family, and Jean Eudes [Moncomble, CFE Secretary General] particular, will see this as an appropriate way of honouring their invitation. Your speech, Mr. van Beurden, was after all an appeal to your industry, which is strongly represented here today. Most of what I am about to say applies well beyond Shell. The title of your speech is intriguing. I have been involved in this debate for twenty years, six of them as the UK’s diplomatic envoy on climate change. During that time many adjectives have been
A new report released Tuesday by the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative warns that the crash of U.S. coal markets is but a harbinger of things to come for all fossil fuel investments. The report, The U.S. Coal Crash – Evidence for Structural Change (pdf), found that the slump in coal prices has forced more than two dozen U.S. coal companies into bankruptcy over the past three years. With the rise of renewable energy and a growing call for countries to adapt their energy infrastructures for a more carbon-constrained future, the authors of the report argue that the crash of the U.S. coal economy “provides an excellent example of how the future may pan out globally and with other fuels as the world moves to a low-carbon economy.” According to the study, the market’s demise has been driven by a combination of factors, including: lost market share to cheap shale gas, the falling cost of renewable energy sources, and increased environmental protections and industry regulation—driven largely by the Environmental Protection Agency. Further, international markets in Asia have similarly moved to adapt their energy usage in the face of growing concern over carbon emissions. “The roof has fallen in on U.S. coal, and alarm
One of the biggest banks in the Middle East and the oil-rich Gulf countries says that fossil fuels can no longer compete with solar technologies on price, and says the vast bulk of the $US48 trillion needed to meet global power demand over the next two decades will come from renewables. The report from the National Bank of Abu Dhabi says that while oil and gas has underpinned almost all energy investments until now, future investment will be almost entirely in renewable energy sources. The report is important because the Gulf region, the Middle East and north Africa will need to add another 170GW of electricity in the next decade, and the major financiers recognise that the cheapest and most effective way to go is through solar and wind. It also highlights how even the biggest financial institutions in the Gulf are thinking about how to deploy their capital in the future. “Cost is no longer a reason not to proceed with renewables,” the 80-page NBAD report says.It says the most recent solar tender showed that even at $10/barrel for oil, and $5/mmbtu for gas, solar is still a cheaper option. The bank says intermittency of wind and solar is not