Quantcast
Popular

World's Richest Governments Aid Big Carbon's Efforts to Delay Climate Reckoning

One of President Obama's main climate policy thrusts was to persuade the world that since you often get what you pay for, the world should stop paying for more extreme climate disruption by subsidizing fossil fuels. Both the G7 and the G20 accepted Obama's lead—at least nominally.

Some countries did something. Revealingly, both rich and poor countries which were helping energy consumers get cheaper fuel reformed. The United Arab Emirates has dismantled its subsidy regime for gasoline. Indonesia eliminated its gasoline subsidies and capped diesel supports. India has moved very aggressively, first eliminating diesel supports, and now phasing out even the subsidized kerosene intended to help the off-grid poor pay for lighting their homes. (Dealing with electricity subsidies has proven a heavier lift).


But most richer countries, including the U.S. and China, the nations who started the clamor to get prices right haven't done so well. Their subsidies are mostly aimed at well-connected fossil fuel producers. Recent analysis shows that $60 billion a year is still flowing from 12 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members to oil, gas and coal producers, in a variety of forms, particularly export credits to encourage emerging markets to purchase oil, gas and coal technologies and equipment. This is four times as much subsidy as those same countries provide to clean energy.

So the world's strongest economies are handing out more than $60 billion in public funds to the world's biggest polluters, including some of the world's richest companies, aiding and abetting Big Carbon's effort to postpone the climate reckoning. At the same time they are pleading that their Treasuries are so depleted that they cannot keep their much less expensive long-standing promises to help finance the clean energy transition in developing countries.

Australia, for example, which was just chosen to lead the primary vehicle for climate aid, the Green Climate Fund, has provided $200 million for that agency. But Australia's Queensland State is proposing to spend $1 billion—five times as much—helping to build a single new railroad to enable an Indian mining company, Adani, to develop its Carmichael mine, a decision which caused one of Adani's competitors, Glencore, to snipe at "risky ventures that rely on taxpayer subsidies to get across the line and which will bring on massive volumes of additional coal supply into the market, which could undermine existing operations." (The Carmichael coal project is also expected to receive significant financial concessions on royalty payments).

The U.S., under President Trump, has become something of a caricature of what this fossil subsidy end game might look like. Trump campaigned with strong support from coal, oil and natural gas nationally—but messaged around his promise to bring back coal mining jobs in Appalachian states like Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Elected, he moved promptly to reverse a series of Obama administration regulations which would have improved environmental standards for oil, gas and coal extraction. Coal industry executive and even Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell conceded that these roll-backs, while good for coal company pocket books, would do nothing to bring back Appalachian jobs, which were being lost because of competition from cheaper strip-mined western coal, natural gas and renewables.

Trump next reversed a series of Obama reforms designed to ensure that companies mining fossil fuels from public lands paid fair royalties, and that leases were bid competitively. The roll-back added another billion dollars a year to the taxpayer give-away to public lands producers, but also made it even more difficult for labor intensive Appalachian coal miners to compete—speeding the loss of jobs. (The new administration's moves to lower environmental standards for gas drilling also hampered eastern coal).

How did Appalachian coal interests respond to the Trump administration giveaways to its competitors, western coal and natural gas? Predictably, they pled for even bigger subsidies for themselves. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who just bolted the Democratic Party to join the GOP, asked Trump for a $15 federal subsidy for each ton of Appalachian coal, and claimed Trump had expressed support for the idea. If Congress were to appropriate these funds, it would add another $4.5 billion to the total U.S. government pay-off to fossil fuel producers.

But while these outrageous political payoffs waste taxpayer money and keep uncompetitive coal projects alive for a few more years, they don't change the underlying market realities. Last month the CEO of CSX railroad, founded to haul coal, and still getting a fifth of its revenue from the fuel, told analysts "Fossil fuels are dead….That's a long-term view. It's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to be in two or three years. But it's going away, in my view." And he backed up that prediction by revealing that his company would no longer make capital investments in its coal hauling business—no more locomotives designed to haul coal, no more investments in additional trackage—CSX is just going to let its coal business gradually wither. This week a Houston based energy trader told Bloomberg, "All the power market people that I know, we all think coal is going to zero."

So when you read claims that renewable energy isn't competitive yet with fossil fuels, or that it is economics that is slowing down the transition to clean energy, remember—the world's richest governments are throwing taxpayer money at well connected oil, gas and coal companies, cosseting these giants from the grim realities of true market costs—they represent a no-longer competitive past, and our health, our security, our climate and our economy will be better off the faster we move to the future of clean, low-carbon and cheaper energy sources.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Food
Workers collect salt crystals on Aug. 22 at Aigues-Mortes where the salt pans cover 10,000 hectares. PASCAL GUYOT / AFP / Getty Images

90% of Table Salt Is Contaminated With Mircroplastics

By Julia Conley

A year after researchers at a New York university discovered microplastics present in sea salt thanks to widespread plastic pollution, researchers in South Korea set out to find out how pervasive the problem is—and found that 90 percent of salt brands commonly used in homes around the world contain the tiny pieces of plastic.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Japan's cherry blossoms are unexpectedly blooming this autumn. Coniferconifer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cherry Blossoms are Blooming Across Japan. It's October.

Each year, Japan's iconic cherry blossoms herald the arrival of spring. But after a bout of extreme weather, blooms are being reported several months early.

The Japanese weather site Weathernews said it had received more than 350 reports of blossoms throughout the country. The flowers usually appear in March or April.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Bloede Dam removal in process. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services / YouTube

4 Exciting Dam-Removal Projects to Watch

By Tara Lohan

For much of the 20th century humans got really good at dam building. Dams—embraced for their flood protection, water storage and electricity generation—drove industry, built cities and helped turn deserts into farms. The United States alone has now amassed more than 90,000 dams, half of which are 25 feet tall or greater.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
FoodPrint helps identify local and seasonal produce with its Seasonal Food Guide. FoodPrint / Facebook

Find Out Your 'Foodprint': New Website Helps You Shop, Cook and Eat More Sustainably

Two days after World Food Day, an innovative nonprofit has launched a website to help you reduce the environmental impact of the food you eat.

FoodPrint, designed by GRACE Communications Foundation, was created to educate consumers about everything that goes into common food items, from farm to fridge, so that they can make sustainable choices.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified Aug. 1 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Acting EPA Head Is Still Unconfirmed After 100+ Days in Position

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), might continue to oversee the office without Senate confirmation until President Trump's term is over, according to reports from Bloomberg and the Huffington Post.

The former coal lobbyist has been the temporary EPA boss for more than 100 days ever since his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned in July after a long list of ethics scandals.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Volunteers prepare to take flow measurements on Muddy Creek. Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps / CC BY-ND

How Monitoring Local Water Supplies Can Build Community

By John M. Carroll

Water insecurity is a touchstone for 2018. Our planet isn't running out of water, but various kinds of mismanagement have led to local water crises across the planet, directly threatening millions of people.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Inti St Clair / Getty Images

When It Comes to Sustainability, We’re a Society of Distracted Drivers

By Richard Heinberg

Driving is dangerous. In fact, it's about the riskiest activity most of us engage in routinely. It requires one's full attention—and even then, things can sometimes go horribly awry. The brakes fail. Weather turns roads to ice. A driver in the oncoming lane falls asleep. Tragedy ensues. But if we're asleep at the wheel, the likelihood of calamity skyrockets. That's why distracted driving is legally discouraged: no cell phones, no reading newspapers or books, no hanky-panky with the front-seat passenger. If you're caught, there's a hefty fine.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Last month's temperatures across land and sea tied with 2017 as the fourth highest for September in the 1880-2018 record. NOAA

2018 Likely to Rank as Fourth-Hottest Year on Record

After a summer of record-breaking heatwaves and devastating wildfires, 2018 is shaping up to be one of the planet's hottest years in recorded history.

From January through September, the average global temperature was 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 57.5°F, making it the fourth warmest year-to-date on record, and only 0.43°F lower than the record-high set in 2016 for the same period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA) announced Wednesday. NOAA's global temperature dataset record dates back to 1880.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!