Even as clean energy scaling continues around the world, the subtitle of this Yahoo News article, "The fossil fuel industry receives billions in taxpayer subsidies as the wind industry fights to take flight", sums up how much faster we could be moving without a playing field that continues to tilt unfairly and unwisely in the direction of dirty energy. Even more unwise is that this tilted playing field - to the tune of $5 trillion per year lavished on fossil fuels worldwide - is continuing at a time when the science is absolutely clear that burning fossil fuels is trashing the planet. The urgency of this economic, environmental and moral imperative is being further highlighted this week by Pope Francis' new encyclical, which directly addresses the damage done by a "development model based on the intensive use of fossil fuels." Which brings us back to the Yahoo News article, and the "hurdles and hopes for a renewable future." Here are a few key points:
- "Given the proper financial investment and political backing, wind could account for a much larger percentage of the nation’s electricity production than it currently does. But, critics say, many corporations and politicians stand to profit from our continued reliance upon fossil fuels."
- "The DOE estimates that wind energy could supply the nation with 10 percent of its electricity by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050. This would require cooperation and strategic planning: expanded development areas, increased economic value and reduced costs."
- "The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the national trade association for the wind industry, argues that investors need a 'predictable, stable pro-growth tax policy' — the kind currently enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry."
- "In 2012, uncertainty over whether the incentives would be renewed resulted in a 92 percent drop in wind installations the following year, according to AWEA; as a result, the wind industry’s economy reportedly lost $23 billion and 30,000 jobs."
- "So why does the U.S. government shell out billions of dollars to prop up fossil fuels while providing relatively sparse support for wind? Oil Change International, an organization advocating against subsidies for fossil fuels, says the [fossil fuel] industry’s fingerprints can be seen on every barrier to a transition toward clean energy."
- "According to a Guardian investigation, the U.S. government awarded Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum significant taxpayer subsidies — worth $1.6 billion, $119 million and $78 million, respectively — thanks to politicians they helped elect by donating to their campaigns....the subsidies were implemented long ago to bolster the American economy, but it is time to cut back — especially now that we have viable alternatives."
- Also worth noting: "ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhilips — the five most profitable oil companies — raked in more than $1 trillion in profits over the past 10 years." Clearly, these companies don't need taxpayer-funded corporate welfare to be profitable.
- Finally, the following quote highlights the denialism and, frankly, arrogance pervasive in the fossil fuel industry: "The API and similar organizations argue that not only should we persist in using fossil fuels to maintain our current lifestyles, but also we will have to use more of it in upcoming decades." That's even with all the science showing the urgent need to get off of fossil fuels ASAP. Given this heads-firmly-planted-in-the sand attitude, these companies obviously are not going to do the right thing unless they are forced by policymakers to do so. Today, it's long past time for policymakers to do just that.