Vox’s David Roberts published an article last week claiming “Most energy subsidies go not to renewables but to producing more of the dirty stuff.” Is Roberts’ claim true? A quick fact check shows just the opposite of what Roberts claims. Wind and solar power receive far more subsidies than other energy sources. Rather than trying to sell Americans on expensive, inefficient, and heavily subsidized renewable energy, the environmental left should support hydro power, nuclear power, and natural gas. Each of these energy sources reduce pollution and global warming emissions, and each is more affordable and abundant than wind and solar power.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
It is not too difficult to access facts and information on government energy subsidies. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, publishes occasional reports on the amount of government money devoted to supporting specific energy sources. The two most recent EIA reports on energy subsidies were performed under the Obama administration and examined federal government energy subsidies in 2010 and 2013. According to the Obama administration data – available here – solar power by itself receives more federal government subsidies than coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power combined. Similarly, the Obama administration reports that wind power also receives more federal government subsidies than coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power combined. And in terms of subsidies per unit of energy produced, wind and solar power receive thousands of times more subsidies than coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power combined.
So how does Roberts claim “Most energy subsidies go not to renewables but to producing more of the dirty stuff?” Roberts doesn’t present any objective data. Instead, he references an advocacy paper by a group called Oil Change International. As you might guess from the group’s name, the purpose of Oil Change International is to convince people to stop using oil and other “fossil” fuels. The title of the Oil Change International paper – “Dirty Energy Dominance: Dependent on Denial: How the U.S Fossil Fuel Industry Depends on Subsidies and Climate Denial” – makes it clear that the paper is neither objective nor academic. The group’s resident advocates are simply attempting to present an argument that supports their aggressive anti-energy agenda.
Relying on creative accounting and definitions of fossil fuel “subsidies” that even the Obama administration found lacking in credibility, Oil Change International argues “dirty fossil fuels” receive more subsidies than renewable power. But the objected data, presented by the Obama administration’s Energy Information Administration shows exactly the opposite.
One can make the argument that we should reduce the emissions of traditional pollutants and carbon dioxide. One can make an even better argument that the most effective and cost-efficient way to do this is through hydro power, nuclear power, and natural gas. But one cannot make a credible argument that wind and solar power face an uphill battle because government disproportionately subsidizes its competitors.