A Tough Addiction to Break

On June 7, the International Energy Agency reports that worldwide subsidies for the consumption of fossil fuels soared to $557 billion in 2008, an increase of nearly two-thirds over 2007. Phasing out those subsidies would promote more efficient use of energy and slash CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent—equal to the current emissions of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom combined.

As IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol tells the Financial Times, “I see fossil fuel subsidies as the appendicitis of the global energy system which needs to be removed for a healthy, sustainable development future.”

On June 15, President Obama, addressing the nation on the BP oil spill, says:

For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.  . . . The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.  Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

On June 15, the U.S. Senate overwhelming rejects an amendment proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to end $35 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas producers over the next decade. The amendment, defeated by a vote of 35 to 61, would have earmarked $25 billion for deficit reduction and $10 billion for state energy and conservation programs.

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