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Pair-O-Graphs: Global fossil fuel subsidies: What’s the issue?

Scott Tong Jun 19, 2012



Count me as a late adopter of the term “Twitterstorm.” 100,000 tweets came in yesterday under the Twitter hashtag #endfossilfuelsubsidies, according to Jake Schmidt of the environmental group NRDC. At this week’s Rio +20 earth conference, ending subsidies for oil, gas and coal has become a prime war cry. It’s not a new engagement; world leaders at the 2009 G-20 conference in Pittsburgh agreed to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.” Why? The image above from the International Energy Agency – okay it’s not exactly a graph – provides a few rationales: subsidies get us to consume more, import more, undercut renewable energy investments. Exactly how much in subsidies  we’re dealing with is subject to some tricky math, before we even mention the politics. The club of rich countries known as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (yes, they spell organization with an s, such the globalised bunch) estimates $409 billion, but that’s just help for energy buyers, not sellers (cool map here). If you include producer subsidies one study from groups with an enviro bent tallies nearly one trillion dollars a year. P.S on our program we noted oil and gas subsidies in the U.S. date back to the dawn of the tax code.

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