CEOs Demand Transparency on Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Don Hankins/CC BY 2.0

When protesters occupied a British power station for a week, they argued that the country can't afford to build more natural gas power stations.

Critics argued back, of course, suggesting that renewables are too heavily subsidized and unable to stand on their own. From feed-in tariffs being a handout to the relatively well off to the media falsely clamoring to blame renewable subsidies for energy price hikes, these are a common refrain. Yet commentators often fail to dive into the massive and often deeply obscured world of fossil fuel subsidies that help support the status quo.

Now Triodos Bank—the same outfit that made waves with a Times Square billboard demanding more happiness, less greed—is coordinating a push by CEOs for full disclosure of all subsidies in the UK energy market. The CEOs, who hail primarily from clean energy firms, investment funds and non-profits, argue that we can only have a sensible and transparent discussion of clean energy subsidies if we also see what fossil fuel industries get too:

"Since many of the pricing support mechanisms to renewable energy are transparent and visible, critics describe them as subsidies. This is true. But it’s also true of all energy sources like fossil fuels and nuclear energy. A major Dutch study* conducted in 2011 found 53 types of interventions present in the Dutch energy market, the majority favouring fossil fuel. [...] To make clear decisions, we need a clear picture. We need to raise the level of debate with the benefit of reliable, independent information about subsidies in the energy sector. In short, we need a report, verified by the National Audit Office, describing the subsidies in the energy sector."

Whether the group gets its report or not, this is an encouraging sign of an increasingly confident green sector that is beginning to flex its political muscle. The US clean tech community was relatively silent on Keystone XL, but nobody can afford to stay on the sidelines any longer.

As I continue to mull over James Murray's excellent case for a new environmentalism, I am struck by his assertion that we must build a narrative that encompasses a broader movement. But that doesn't mean we can't pick fights—in fact we must. We just have to do so strategically, methodically and with a clear path to victory.

Tags: Activism | Corporate Responsibility | Economics | Energy | Renewable Energy | United Kingdom

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