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Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF

Stashed in: Facts, Ecology!, Awesome, The World, Energy!, Energy

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As a bike and transit commuter I'm always taken aback by how MAD people get about the "waste" of their tax dollars on shared resources like trains or bike lanes. Not only are drivers totally in denial about how roads are paid for... but they REALLY don't know how much their gas really costs the taxpayer. Hint: more than all the healthcare in the advanced economies!

Makes me want this to happen sooner:

"Elon Musk said that with 160 million Powerpacks, the entire United States could be transitioned to renewable energy."

Found here:

I do hope Tesla moves the needle to the point that solar plus better batteries can displace a lot of fossil fuel usage. Ramez Naam did a post looking at the current economics back when Tesla announced the PowerPack, and it looks like it's getting closer.

It does seem like they're getting closer. And at least they're trying.

A definition of "subsidy" that includes externalities is pretty much stretching the concept beyond recognition.  That said, those externalities are pretty large if the IMF is correct, and as this piece notes, these externalities are even worse than what we would generally call subsidies:  Most of the externalities look to be local air pollution (i.e., not related to global warming).

Yeah, if you include local air pollution I'd imagine it's even higher than what the IMF suggests.

Unfortunately, most of the costs as calculated by the IMF are externalities. Mostly ill health caused by air pollution - over half of the cost in fact. That's not a direct subsidy by any means. To impose the "true" cost would require pollution and carbon taxes. That's a huge barrier, and unworkable in the world's fractured political environment. There is also an incredible amount of infrastructure dedicated to the use of fossil fuels. That keeps costs low and people employed. Things will only really change when renewable energy and energy storage are cheap enough. If the advances in technology in both of those areas continue at their current rates, we should hit that point by 2030 or so.

I'd be happy to see the end of fossil fuel use, especially the pollution it causes. But investing in R&D of cleaner tech, is better than misrepresenting fossil fuel subsidies. Oil, gas and coal are currently necessary evils for the world economy. Come up with something cleaner AND cheaper. Moral outrage doesn't keep the lights on. And morality untempered by reality just leads to bad policy. 

James, thank you for your insights!

It's not like we need more reasons to curtail fossil fuel use.

I agree that cleaner, cheaper energy alternatives are the best solution.

Future generations will look back at this era and wonder why we didn't push harder for those alternatives to be developed sooner. 

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