[Updated May 11 2012: At last a serious plan to phase out these subsidies will be on the table at the Rio+20 meet in June. I will be following this closely – with your help – Stephen ]
Experts say the subsidy madness must stop. With unemployment high can governments facing recession summon the will to end the fossil fuel industries’ FREE RIDE?
By Stephen Leahy
BERLIN, Jun 29, 2010 (IPS)
Every day, governments give away an estimated two billion dollars of taxpayer money to the fossil fuel industry. This unmatched largesse to a highly profitable sector by countries verging on bankruptcy or unable to feed large numbers of their own people is “complete madness”, according to many experts.
In Toronto Sunday, at the conclusion of G20 summit, countries agreed the madness must be constrained if not stopped.
“I was impressed. I think the commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies has finally arrived,” said Mark Halle, director of trade and investment at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) European office in Geneva.
“With countries committed to cutting their deficits, it is hard to ignore giving billions of real money away to the fossil fuel industry or to keep fuel prices low,” Halle said in an interview.
The two-billion-dollars-a-day public subsidy for carbon- based fuels is a very conservative estimate based on the extensive research conducted by the IISD’s Global Subsidies Initiative, said Halle. Not only do such huge subsidies undermine policies on energy efficiency, they make it impossible for alternative energy sources to compete, he said. [See also Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are 12X (more like 20X) Support for Renewables, Study Shows — Stephen]
“We can’t make the transition to low-carbon economies nor can the energy playing field be leveled without the elimination of fossil fuels. And time for that has finally come,” he said.
Others are less optimistic given the G8 and G20 track record for broken promises.
“It (the G20 commitment) fell short of vision and courage that is expected from global leaders in the light of the disastrous oil spill” in the Gulf of Mexico, said Darek Urbaniak of Friends of the Earth Europe. Urbaniak noted that BP, the company responsible for the spill, receives British and EU public subsidies.