Showing posts with label subsidies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label subsidies. Show all posts

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Twitterstorm will challenge fossil fuel subsidies

Growing public pressure is pushing governments to reduce fossil fuel subsidies. Activists are mobilising public opinion using social media.

From a mass of social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook have emerged as dominant players. Using them, climate communicators are finding fresh ways  to spread messages and organise action. Watch Twitter on 18 June for the Twitterstorm campaign that calls for the Rio Earth Summit to address the problem of fossil fuel subsidies.

The total global amount of fossil fuel subsidies provided in 2012 is likely to be at least $775 billion, according to OilChange International. These subsidies have the effect of encouraging fossil fuel consumption and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Their impact is so big that the IEA's Fatih Birol says ending fossil fuel subsidies could provide half the answer to solving climate change.

Wealthy OECD countries are not the worst offenders, instead Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia have the highest subsidies, as this Guardian graph illustrates.

Countries with fossil fuel reserves, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, use subsidies as a way to spread the wealth by making fuel and fertiliser cheaper. However analysis has shown that little of the subsidy reaches the poorest people, and that there are more efficient ways to spread the wealth.

Poor countries like India have programs that make kerosine, the common cooking fuel, affordable for their poorest citizens. To remove the kerosine subsidy, these countries will need assistance from wealthy countries so their poorest citizens can continue to buy enough kerosine to cook every day.

The worst effect of fossil fuel subsidies is to discourage the uptake of renewables because it is hard for clean energy to compete against artificially cheap fossil fuel.

Organisations like 350.0rg are using Rio's Earth Summit to advocate for wealthy countries to remove their own subsidies and to give assistance to poor countries so they can reduce theirs.

You can add your voice to campaign petitions at, or Earthday Network. And you can join the Twitterstorm planned for 18 June 2012 by following #endfossilfuelsubsidies.

It's a storm caused by fossil fuel emissions, but it's a good one.

UPDATE 20 June 2012: The Twitter campaign took the hash tag #endfossilfuelsubsidies to No. 2 in the ranking of globally trending topics and No. 1 in the US, and succeeded in mobilising action from tens of thousands of people worldwide.

The Twitterstorm was one element in a suite of related activities – petitions signed by more than 1 million people, banners, screen projections in major cities, and a panel discussion in Rio before the conference.

Among the cacophony of messages at the Rio+20 Earth Conference, the Twitterstorm may have helped to draw attention to fossil fuel subsidies. Early drafts of the Rio text didn't mention oil, coal or gas subsidies at all, and the final draft made only a passing reference. In the end, the impact of this Twitterstorm and the wider campaign will be measured by how quickly fossil fuel subsidies are unravelled over coming years.

Image: Campaign agains climate change

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Subsidies – specks or logs?

We have set out on this long journey towards a low carbon future.

We know that the cost of doing nothing will be enormous in money, goods, homes and lives. So we are prepared to pay to avoid catastrophe. Of course, we don't want to pay more than we have to, and we don't want to pay more than the other guy. So everyone is busy with their calculators and measuring rods making sure we pay as little as possible, making this transition look like a slow bicycle race.

The situation is ripe for vested interests to say, "Hey! Those guys are getting too much money. It's not fair."

This happened recently with respect to Chinese solar panels exported to the U.S. The U.S. Department of Commerce decided that the manufacturers had an unfair advantage due to big subsidies from the Chinese government. To level things up, they slapped a tariff on them.

Fossil fuel industry supporters often complain that governments are giving too many subsidies to renewable energy projects. Industry associations and lobbyists are counting on their fingers and toes to tally all the subsidies, big and little, for renewables.

The very reputable International Energy Agency (IEA) found that countries worldwide paid $66 billion in subsidies to encourage the development and deployment of renewable energy in 2010.

That sounds like a lot, but it is just a speck compared with the $409 billion that governments paid to subsidise fossil fuel in the same year, according to the IEA.

Fatih Birol, exceptional economist with the IEA says, 
Energy markets can be thought of as suffering from appendicitis due to fossil fuel subsidies. They need to be removed for a healthy energy economy. Energy is significantly underpriced in many parts of the world, leading to wasteful consumption, price volatility and fuel smuggling. It's also undermining the competitiveness of renewables.

Australia doesn't get a mention in this very excellent Guardian article about fossil fuel subsidies, but I note that after floating the idea of reducing the $2 billion diesel rebate, the Australian government caved in to industry lobbying and it didn't get a mention in the recent budget.

When fossil fuel interests criticise the subsidies given to renewable energy, they need to look at the log in their own eyes before complaining about the speck in other people's eyes.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7.3