This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


Fossil Subsidies Hit a ‘Staggering’ $5.7 Trillion in 2017

Global fossil fuel subsidies were expected to total US$5.7 trillion in 2017, and U.S. subsidies in 2015 exceeded the country’s profligate military spending, according to analysis released earlier this month by the International Monetary Fund.

In a summary of its May 2 working paper, the IMF places 2015 subsidies across 191 countries at $4.7 trillion, or 6.3% of GDP, including $1.4 trillion from China, $694 billion from the U.S., $551 billion from Russia, $289 billion from the European Union, and $209 billion from India.

“The numbers are quite staggering,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, “fiscally, but also in terms of human life, if there had been the right price on carbon emission as of 2015.” The IMF’s working paper summary states that “efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015 would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46%, and increased government revenue by 3.8% of GDP.”

With subsidies brought under control, Lagarde added, “there would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools, and to support education and health for the people.” The summary notes that “about three-quarters of global subsidies are due to domestic factors—energy pricing reform thus remains largely in countries’ own national interest—while coal and petroleum together account for 85% of global subsidies.”

Rolling Stone compares U.S. subsidies to the $599 billion budget the country’s bloated military received in 2015. “To offer a sense of scale, Pentagon spending accounted for 54% of the discretionary [U.S.] federal budget in 2015,” the magazine writes. “In comparison to another important, but less well-funded part of the federal budget, fossil fuel subsidies were nearly 10 times what Congress spent on education. Broken down to an individual level, fossil fuel subsidies cost every man, woman, and child in the United States $2,028 that year.”

The fossil industry and its “stooges in public office” routinely argue “that making consumers pay for the full impacts of fossil fuel use would cripple the economy,” Rolling Stone adds. “The IMF experts call bullshit on this idea, revealing that the world would, in fact, be more prosperous. Eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels would have created global ‘net economic welfare gains’ in 2015 of ‘more than $1.3 trillion, or 1.7% of global GDP,’ the study found,” with the calculation based on reduced environmental damage and higher government revenues after factoring in consumer losses due to higher energy prices.

The post Fossil Subsidies Hit a ‘Staggering’ $5.7 Trillion in 2017 appeared first on The Energy Mix.


William Hughes-Games's picture
William Hughes-Games on May 16, 2019

This is not going to change unless we sort out the one ring that controls them all.  Who is the one American politician that understands this???

The Energy  Mix's picture
The Energy Mix on May 19, 2019

Great point, WIlliam, thanks for the link.

One of the tidbits I noticed in the coverage from Australia over the last couple of weeks was that Labour's Bill Shorten was the first party leader in memory who did *not* travel to New York to pay homage to Rupert Murdoch before the campaign began. And in Canada, we have (at least) one federal party actively coordinating strategy with the fossil industry, and the country's largest media group issuing a formal bid to help Alberta build a "war room" against its perceived opponents. Postmedia says it isn't violating journalism ethics because the bid is coming from its content marketing division, not its newsroom.

So I hope you aren't suggesting that we can or should abandon all the various urgent, substantive campaigns the wider climate community is necessarily involved in. But, yeah...we need to start winning elections, too. - Mitchell

The Energy  Mix's picture

Thank The Energy for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »