The global addiction to energy subsidies

The global addiction to energy subsidies

Energy prices have been falling for a year. Over the last month that trend has accelerated. On July 24th, the price of a barrel of oil in America reached a low of $48. In spite of this, governments are still splurging on subsidies to prop up production.

Fossil fuels are reaping support of $550 billion annually, according the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organisation that represents oil- and gas-consuming countries, more than four times those given for renewable energy.

The International Monetary Fund’s estimates are substantially higher. It said in May that countries will spend $5.3 trillion subsiding oil, gas and coal in 2015, versus $2 trillion in 2011. That is equivalent to 6.5% of global GDP, and is more than what governments across the world spend on healthcare. At a time of low energy prices, high government debt and rising concern over emissions there is scant justification for such spending. So why is the world addicted to energy subsidies?

Governments have devised several different ways of giving handouts for fossil fuels. Most surveys analyse “consumption” subsidies, rather than support or tax breaks for producers.

Traditional “pre-tax” measures keep prices below supply costs for folk filling up their cars, or switching on the lights, and are particularly popular with developing countries. In oil-producing nations like Nigeria and Venezuela, low fuel prices are seen by poor populations as one of the few benefits of having large natural resource endowments. Rich countries subsidise too – the IMF says America is the world’s second biggest culprit, spending $669 billion this year – but mostly by “post-tax” systems which fail to factor the costs of environmental damage into prices.

 

Source: The Economist

Date: July 2015

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Tags assigned to this article:
fossil fuelsrenewablessubsidies

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