20 February 2012

Global fossil fuel subsidies in 5 unforgettable graphs

As the five biggest oil companies made a record-high $137 billion in profits, these five unforgettable charts on global fossil fuel subsidies, courtesy of The Guardian, need no explanation. But by way of a very brief summary:
  • While government support to renewable power sources is subject to seemingly endless media and political scrutiny, the 500% larger subsidies given to oil, gas and coal rarely get much attention.
  • Governments and taxpayers spent $409 billion in 2010 supporting the production and consumption of fossil fuels, three-quarters of which went to the oil industry. 
  •  Just 8% of that $409 billion went to the poorest 20% of the population
  • Global subsidies for fossil fuel consumption are set to reach $660 billion in 2020 unless reforms are passed to effectively eliminate this form of state aid, according to International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol.
  • Eliminating fossil fuel consumption subsidies by 2020 would cut global energy demand by 4 percent, cutting demand for oil by 3.7million  barrels a day.
  • Dropping subsidies could slow growth in CO2 emissions by 1.7bn tonnes a year, equivalent to the total emissions of the UK, Germany, Italy and France.
  • In Australia, the SMH reported that taxpayers spend about 11 times more encouraging the use of fossil fuels than on climate change programs. Fossil fuel incentives and subsidies will cost about $12.2 billion this financial year in Australia, compared with $1.1 billion spent on programs designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost research.
Its hardly as though big oil needs the cash. The five biggest oil companies made a record-high $137 billion in profits in 2011, and have made more than $1 trillion in profits from 2001 through 2011. And every $1 spent on lobbying in Washington, the big five received $30 worth of tax breaks.
     On 24 January 2012, Independent US Senator Bernie Sanders pledged to introduce legislation to repeal federal tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, declaring at a Capitol Hill rally that "the most profitable corporations in the world do not need subsidies from the American people." Ditto Australia.
Additional sources: Reuters, IBTimes