How will we pay for it?

Get ready, you’re going to hear that question a lot from the Republicans in coming years. Just keep this in mind:

The fossil fuel lobby has actively worked in many countries to protect their subsidies and avoid the imposition of carbon taxes. Doing so protects their profits.
US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education

Funny how cutting oil subsidies and defense never end up on the chopping block.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    But…but.. if we don’t pander to and pamper the rich, they won’t do their money magic and then the economy won’t go!

  2. says

    The last president to balance the budget was Clinton. Not Bush. Not other Bush. Definitely not Trump. Bill Clinton balanced the budget. It’s really amazing how the GOP preaches fiscal responsibility but when they’re in charge, they spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave.

  3. mcfrank0 says

    “Funny how cutting oil subsidies and defense never end up on the chopping block.”

    Funny too how decreasing subsidies means an increase in fuel prices and not a decrease in the already obscene level of profits.

  4. asclepias says

    Indeed. I’ve been doing a lot of research into coal and oil companies for my blog this year, and the things common to almost every company that has gone bankrupt are these:

    Board members get paid millions of dollars (anywhere between $7 million and $14 million) to “shepherd the company through bankruptcy”;

    Companies ask (an ask that is often granted) bankruptcy courts to allow them to stop paying health benefits to their retirees;

    Some people will be laid off;

    Companies are generally allowed to weasel out of their environmental obligations.

    Some states, like Wyoming and West Virginia, allow companies to “self bond.” That is, they don’t have to prove collateral. In Wyoming, there are rules, sort of. The companies have to meet certain benchmarks to qualify for self bonding. Of course, nobody’s ever addressed what happens when they inch below those benchmarks and suddenly don’t qualify for self bonding anymore. (Sort of like now–the bottom has dropped out of the coal market, and since there are so few legislators who will dare to utter the words “state income tax,” they are taking it out of state agencies. All, of course, while trying to hike the sales tax on stuff like food.) Either bankruptcy laws need to be changed (I know next to nothing about bankruptcy laws), or some judges need to get tough and quit falling for some company whining that it “only” has $100 million in reserve. (Yeah, I know mining equipment costs a lot, but so do former workers who have black lung.)

  5. lumipuna says

    With those kind of subsidies, it’d be fair play for the fossil fuel industry to phase out any business on actual fossil fuels.

  6. whheydt says

    Re: asclepias @ #5….
    The change (in behavior) I’d like to see in bankruptcy courts would be for them to refuse petitions from churches. Since, in theory, when an organization is under bankruptcy protection, the court is in charge of the organization and because of the Constitutional separation of church and state, NO court should EVER run a church, therefore no court should accept a bankruptcy petition from a church.

  7. karellen says

    US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget

    That made by spider sense tingle, so I went and looked up the paper. Interesting pulls:

    IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.

    So, calling it a “study”, or describing the results as “the IMF’s findings”, is a stretch.

    This paper provides an updated assessment of global and regional energy subsidies based on comprehensive country-level estimates for 191 countries. Coady and others (2015) projected global energy subsidies for 2015 at a striking $5.3 trillion, or 6.5 percent of global GDP, with under-charging for domestic air pollution accounting for about half of the total subsidy and global warming about a quarter.

    Emphasis mine. The figures arrived at by the paper are the money that the authors believe governments should be charging fossil fuel companies for the pollution they cause, but aren’t, which they are calling a subsidy.

    In my mind, that’s also a bit of a stretch of the definition of the word “subsidy”, but not to the point of breaking, so OK. However, I think that to claim (as the Forbes article does) that this is money “spent” by the government does go too far, to the point of dishonesty.

    I will note that, in its defense, the Forbes article later says:

    The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.

    But I think this comes too late, and makes it sound like the indirect costs of pollution are a small proportion of the costs the study is discussing, rather than the majority of the costs, as they are.

    If environmental activists don’t just want to preach to the choir, but want to try and convince people who aren’t sure about global warming, or even those who are currently against it, I think these aren’t just bad tactics, but unnecessary ones. We should be able to show how bad the impact of fossil fuels are either by being either scrupulously fair, or even by steel-manning our arguments. Fossil fuels are that bad that this shouldn’t be an impossible bar to clear.

  8. Ichthyic says

    Funny how cutting oil subsidies and defense never end up on the chopping block.

    or that funding for the largest non-military GO in history, the DHS, is never even discussed at all.