Image credit: Ecotricity
When I asked whether environmentalism was socialist or not, I argued that legislative and fiscal support for renewables like cap and trade or feed-in tariffs were "little different to the direct and indirect subsidies that were used to get the fossil fuel, automobile and aviation industries off the ground during the last century." At least one commenter thought I was talking complete drivel. And in a way they were right. Because, according to a new report at least, they are little different to the subsidies given to the fossil fuel industries right now—except that fossil fuels get a much bigger piece of the pie!According to The Guardian, a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance maps out the level of government subsidies given to energy industries across the Globe, and finds that fossil fuel subsidies dwarf renewables by as much as ten to one.
Michael Liebrach, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told the Guardian that these figures dealt a blow to the argument that renewables were unable to compete without unfair government support:
"One of the reasons the clean energy sector is starved of funding is because mainstream investors worry that renewable energy only works with direct government support," he said. "Setting aside the fact that in many cases clean energy competes on its own merits - for instance in the case of well-situated wind farms and Brazilian sugarcane ethanol - this analysis shows that the global direct subsidy for fossil fuels is around 10 times the subsidy for renewables."
Now as I've argued before, given the dire potential consequences of climate change and peak oil, it makes sense for Governments to stack the cards in favor of cleaner technology—or at least make polluters pay a fair price for the external impacts of their product. But before we even look at stacking the cards in favor of greener tech, it looks like we first need to ensure we have a level playing field to start with.