Renewable energy is on the up and up all over the world. Thanks to market forces and resurgent climate advocacy at both a government and grassroots level, it looks almost certain that they will be the power source of the near, or distant, future.
Fossil fuels aren’t going quietly into that good night, however. The vested interests behind them are still being supported by two key things: lobbied lawmakers that have become bellicose cheerleaders for coal, and governments that help to lower the cost of generating fossil fuel energy through subsidies.
The numbers behind these economic handshakes are staggering. A recent study published in the journal World Development reveals that these subsidies amount to $5 trillion per year, which is roughly 6.5 percent of the total worth of the global economy.
This value matches up with a 2015 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, which concluded that the global cost of fossil fuel subsidies was $14.5 billion per day, or $10 million per minute. The authors of this paper – also the IMF – have noted that these subsidies outspend the total health expenditure for every single government in the world combined.
Around half of these subsidies are going towards coal, which is arguably the most threatened of all the fossil fuels.
The researchers explain that “in absolute terms, subsidies are highly concentrated in a few large countries. China was the biggest subsidizer in 2013 ($1.8 trillion), followed by the United States ($0.6 trillion), and Russia, the European Union, and India (each with about $0.3 trillion).”
Remember, government fossil fuel subsidies are funded by the taxpayer – that’s you. So, whether you like it or not, you are paying for the government to help the fossil fuel industry contribute towards climate change, air pollution, and river pollution, particularly if you live in those three countries.