Guess How Many Billions We Spend on Fossil Fuel Subsidies?

oil fields

Guess how much money goes into fossil fuel subsidies?

Go ahead, guess. I'll wait.

barn owl staring

© Anan Kaewkhammul/Shutterstock$325 billion a year. If you guessed correctly, go ahead and drive a Hummer around the neighborhood for a few days. You earned it.

These billions make oil cheap and help out oil companies. And according to a new analysis, they're just a tiny piece of the way governments support fossil fuels.

"State-backed investments are accounting for a rising share of global energy investment, as state-owned enterprises have remained more resilient in oil and gas and thermal power compared with private actors," explains the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization tasked with the unenviable mission of figuring out how people can have more energy and less pollution at the same time. "The share of global energy investment driven by state-owned enterprises increased over the past five years to over 40% in 2017."

But don't feel so bad. Or if you are an oil company, don't feel so good. Because subsidies were at $500 billion the year before.

The international community is getting down to business. Saudi Arabia is planning on ending fuel subsidies in a couple years, says the report. Korea is cutting back on coal. France vowed to stop using fossil fuels completely by 2023. The U.K. wants to outlaw making new gas-powered cars by 2040.

Of course, the current official American policy is something along the lines of "DRILL!!!" The U.S. pulled out of the Paris Agreement, and the International Energy Agency doesn't seem to have much confidence in the folks on this side of the pond.

"The announcement on the Paris Agreement was accompanied by the stated intent for the United States to maintain a leadership position in clean energy," said the agency, possibly while rolling its eyes.

Still, the future is unclear.

"The bottom line is that, with so many uncertainties and so many moving parts, a forecast as far out as 2040 would be highly susceptible to intervening events. More than that, if we did try to forecast, we would be altering fundamentally the purpose of the Outlook and – we are convinced – reduce its utility," writes the agency.

Or as Doc Brown from "Back to the Future" put it, "Your future is whatever you make it." And that's coming from a guy who figured out how to power his car using banana peels.

"The aim of a forecaster is to be correct; presumably, forecasters celebrate when their predictions turn out to be true. Our aim is to illuminate and inform debate and decision-making," continues the agency. "If the projections in our Current Policies Scenario or even our New Policies Scenario turn out to be true in 2040, this will not be a sign of success."