back to article Two-faced world spends billions on climate help, fossil fuel

The International Energy Agency tells us that the world is entirely cocked. For while we're spending tens of billions ($50bn by its estimate) in subsidising renewables and low carbon energy installations to beat climate change we are also, at the same time, spending $500bn in subsidising the use of fossil fuels to cause climate …


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  1. Ragarath

    Reducing CO2

    I am not all that well read on this subject but surely reducing the subsidies does not reduce the CO2 produced. The energy created is being used and is still going to be needed. It will just cost more for consumers and make the poor poorer etc.

    Unless of course it is suggesting that the subsidies should be switched to renewable's? But if it means switching then it costs more to generate the same amount via renewable's thus more money for subsidies would be needed.

    I am probably way off as I said I am not well versed in this but at a glance this is how it looks.

    1. BioTube

      The point

      When you subsidize something, inevitably it'll be used more than otherwise. By cutting the subsidy, you encourage the development of fuel-efficient equipment and investment into alternate energy sources with the most powerful persuasion known to man - geld.

  2. Anteaus

    It's a beancounter society we live in.

    All this shows is that it's dangerous to promote 'green' ideas to politicians. The skill they demonstrate in turning such issues into moneymaking schemes is jawdropping.

    That, and of course there is no actual proof that global warming even exists, the temperature measurements on which it is based being within the range of normal random variations. The theory has been jumped-upon and expounded from every available soapbox by those who stand to benefit from its acceptance as fact, when it is only theory.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Catch 22

    "Solar PV costs ... are coming down at 4 per cent per quarter ... be better off waiting for ... them in five to 10 years' time... when they're actually cheap."

    The reason the price is coming down is that people are investing in them creating competition and economies of scale.

  4. ravenviz Silver badge

    Motives? $30bn fossil fuel subsidy in Egypt

    I always wonder at the motives of seeming third world countries*: Venzuela, Mexico, Egypt, are so high up on the list of subsidy, what is their strategy exactly?

    I know from experience that Egypt has massive subsidy on fuel, they have considerable offshore reserves and continue to explore for more, and yet they practically give it away in Egypt, leading to clogging traffic on the roads, and very fuel inefficient vehicles belching out black smoke. Central Cairo resides in a persistent smog, even if you get out into the country, a pleasant cruise down the Nile is ruined by the boats they use churning out the pollutants. I am not sure if subsidy is used to promote trade internally, certainly the subsidy on food ($5bn/year**) seems to make more sense (and is less expensive).

    Import duty on vehicles is ridiculous (135% for 1.6l and above***) even though Egypt does not have a vehicle manufacturing industry. Basically the rich in Egypt are paying for the fuel so the poor can piss it all over the place. This seems to be a la mode in other countries with high subsidies, I would like to know what the ratio of economic growth to subsidy is, presuming they are related. if they are not related then why do they do it?

    *please don't beat me, it's an illustration

    **; $3bn goes on bread

    ***; this is now being reduced with bespoke agreements, e.g. with the EU; especially in a country that might actually need 4x4's, if only to negotiate the terrible roads (maybe road building should be subsidized!)

  5. The Indomitable Gall

    I'm not a muslim but...

    "This is essentially because even the mullahs working their economics out of a seventh century holy book have realised that this is absurd."

    Twentieth century secular economics books are themselves a blend of faith and superstition backed by dubious science, anecdotal evidence and post facto rationalisation, so what's the difference between that and getting your economics from a 7th c holy book?

    Invisible hand of the market... WTF? Is it a pink hand? and is it really a unicorn?

  6. Andy Fletcher


    Try paying for food if all the enrgy required to produce it was produced via renewables. Politicians may talk the talk with CO2 reductions, but they aren't about to let us all starve so we can feel better about the temperature in 2100. And starve we would.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    OK, so let's cut one

    Rather than spending $Bns on each of these ventures, let's nail our colours to the mast and axe the budget for one of these two. I suggest we take a world-wide vote: which do people want - cheap petrol or a cooler climate?

    No prizes for guessing what the outcome will be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      cut the subsidies to both

      and invest the money in scientific research.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The answer's in the question

      Put a different way, the question could be between long-term political stability on the one hand and increasingly widespread devastation by floods and other disasters on the other. Now which would you prefer?

      1. NumptyScrub

        I know which I'd prefer

        Cheap petrol (until it runs out) and a sub-tropical climate in the UK, or more land mass to house an ever increasing population and quieter, more pleasant transport?

        AFAIK we (globally) have trouble supporting our current population, and anyway I like the sound of stupidly oversized engines ;)

        Also we need to do something now to stave off the coming Ice Age in a couple of thousand years, or we'll all freeze to death and 70% of the planet will become uninhabitable. I can provide a thorough and rigourous mathematical climate model (including peer review from several other previously unknown climatology "experts") supporting this claim if you give me a couple of months and a 200k grant. I'll even throw in email archives for free, but you can't have the source code :)

  8. Tim Parker

    Over-eager ?

    "They want everyone bright and shiny-eyed at their press conference on the 9th (that would be... today). So I certainly haven't read the report, but I can still tell you roughly what I think it's going to say"

    As the report is out today [0], why not just wait until you've read it and then finish off your article - i'm reasonably sure the desperately expectant readership could have just about hung on a wee bit longer without descending into total anarchy ....


    1. Tim Worstal

      Entirely true

      But part of the fun is going to be whether those poeple who report on it tomorrow, presumably claiming to have actually read the report, manage to make this really rather vital distinction.

      That the "we" doing the renewables subsidising isn't the same "we" as is doing the fossil fuel subsidising.

  9. ray hartman

    dirty energy = fun screwing Gaia

    No bytch deserves a screwing more than bytch Gaia of ectopic pregnancy and cobra venom fame.

    And the best screwing comes from dirty energy .. hehehe ... as you might expect Gaias pals are squirming like tormented krats! I say the obvious. Drill early ... drill often provides both the best "service" and the most usable energy for citizens and the most devil-may-care mental adjustment for our Jansenist energy_savers.

    Screw 'em. **REM** Live-fast die-fast is always the best choice. Don't those sanctimonious jet-setting energy-saving pricks just piss you off? If ya can't waste it then ya can't enjoy it ... and if ya can't enjoy it why do it ? Drill on pilgrims drill on.

  10. davenewman

    Fuel subsidies destroy local biomass energy

    95% of the people in the world rely on wood or straw for their energy. Their biggest energy use is on fuel for cooking. This was a surprise to many of the delegates in the UN Energy Conference in Nairobi in 1981: until parades of women walked past, carrying loads of wood on their heads.

    Some countries subsidise paraffin for cooking - cleverer ones promote energy efficient wood or charcoal stoves, like the Kenya Ceramic Jiko. By insulating the stove with vermiculite, it saves 1/3rd of the energy (in cooking tests). They are made by the people who sit in the sun cutting up old oil drums and waste metal parts from factories. And they undercut any large-scale business in turning out stoves for £2. People get their money back in 2 months, as people in the poorest parts of Nairobi spend 30% of their income on charcoal for cooking.

    So yes this is a contradiction, but neither developed nor developing countries are subsidising the really important thing: energy conservation.

  11. Rational Debate

    Rational Debate

    Um, Tim, (Mr. Reporter guy), my friend, can we have a private little chat?

    You see, I do believe you have managed to rather royally "step in it," so to speak, with this article of yours. You see, for $$ comparisons of energy subsidies to make any sense what-so-ever, one has to compare those subsidies to the amount of power that each item subsidized is producing - in other words, on a dollar/cost per unit energy produced. If you try this little experiment, you will find that the amount of subsidies for renewables are vastly LARGER than subsidies for fossil fuels.

    According to the Energy Information Administration the relative subsidies for various energy sources, includes the fact that wind and solar get in the neighborhood of 100 times the subsidy that oil and gas do per unit of energy produced. For all of the various energy sources, they show $23.50 per MwH for wind, $24.50 for solar, hydroelectric (dams) $0.60 -- whereas oil and gas get only $0.25, coal gets $0.44, and nuclear gets about $1.60.

    Meanwhile the majority of subsidies for oil and gas, including LPG (cooking gas) are direct subsidies in third world nations that primarily help the poorest people. Their governments are trying to help keep them from freezing to death, or starving, or dying of food poisoning or disease from using dung and/or indoor wood burning stoves. To remove these subsidies would make those who can least afford it that much poorer and less healthy (or dead).

    Furthermore, I'd bet that the numbers you quote do not account for all of the taxes we pay on gasoline, which I gather is about $11 per KwH. Put another way, roughly 20% to 30% of the price you pay at the pump consists of federal, state, and local taxes.

    Meanwhile, we've been heavily subsidizing renewables for about five decades now. Even with the massive subsidies, none are even remotely competitive or practical for large scale use. Plus, an increasing number of studies are finding that all too often these sources may not even save any appreciable CO2 emissions, and they have all sorts of unintended consequences, cause environmental damage and/or kill wildlife, etc.

    All of this for a very dubious claim, scientifically speaking, that CO2 emissions might be causing global warming. Whats worse is that even the strongest anthropogenic global warming supporters who have calculated the effects of efforts such as fully implementing the Kyoto treaty worldwide will tell you that the affect on temperature even 100 years in the future will be very minimal - insignificant even.

    But at least if we are going to compare subsidies, let us do it on some meaningful basis - e.g., the subsidy amount per unit energy produced. Otherwise all you are doing is disseminating a grossly misleading set of numbers.

    1. ChilliKwok

      Economically Illiterate and Patronising

      Precisely - the $50bn goes straight into the pockets of subsidy farmers who's bird-blenders and trickle-chargers generate about about 2% of global energy intermittently and unreliably.

      By contrast the $500Bn facilitates 81% of global energy production - providing some of the world's poorest people with cheap reliable power - fighting poverty and boosting economic growth.

      The author goes on to claim that the fossil fuel subsidy is "drowning Bangladesh." Hang on: If CO2 caused the recent floods then what caused the floods in 1842, 1858, 1871, 1875, 1888, 1892 & 1966? The country is located on the Ganges river delta - monsoon floods are a fact of life - always have been , always will be.

      What about sea-level rise in Bangladesh? Due to silt deposition the land area is actually growing at 20Km2 per year.

      Contrary to the author's patronising view of Bangladesh people as helpless peasants, their economy is growing at 7%pa. By the end of the century they will be richer than the Dutch. Their best hope of better dealing with natural flooding is to keep developing. And that means using their natural resources of coal and oil to power their economy.

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  13. scatter

    Waiting for solar PV costs to come down?

    I don't get this bit. If the world were to suddenly stop investing in PV overnight and wait five or ten years, how would costs come down? These things don't just magically happen.

    We needed to buy crystalline PV at dollars per watt in the early years so that companies could safely invest in the R&D to be churning out thin film at pennies per watt in later years. We're already below $1 per watt so I would say we're getting there.

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