subsidies

Taking a More Comprehensive Look at Coal Subsidies

Earlier this month, Robert Murray, President and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, sparred with Tesla founder Elon Musk on the issue of subsidies. Murray called Tesla a “fraud” for failing to achieve a profit despite benefitting from consumer-facing electric vehicle tax credits, and then Musk lobbed back that EVs get “pennies on the dollar” compared to coal.

We reported the exchange here on DeSmog, adding some background on how the coal industry and companies like Murray actually do benefit from a broad range of subsidies. Murray took exception, and sent the following note to the managing editor of DeSmog:

Murray vs. Musk: Coal CEO Calls Tesla a “Fraud," Doesn't Mention Subsidies for Failing Coal

On Monday, Robert Murray, President and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, called Tesla Motors a “fraud” on CNBC, going on to bash the company for failing to yet turn a profit despite subsidies.

Tesla is a fraud. [It] has gotten $2 billion from the taxpayer and has not made a penny yet in cash flow. Here again, it’s subsidies,” Murray claimed.

Taxpayer Groups, Environmentalists, Students Call on Congress to End $4 Billion Annual Oil Industry Subsidies

In an open letter sent to Congress today, a coalition of 40 national taxpayer, labor, environmental and other groups called on the federal government to repeal almost $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, calling them wasteful and lambasting Congress for subsidizing activities that will make climate change worse.

The groups called on Senators to support the FAIR Energy Policy Act, which would slowly phase out nine special tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

“Oil companies receive billions in tax breaks, despite being among the world’s largest and most profitable corporations,” the groups wrote. “For too long, America has subsidized the oil industry’s bottom line at middle class Americans’ expense.”

Another law passed earlier this year revokes the wind industry's production tax credit, and the FAIR Energy Policy Act would wind down some of the oil industry's subsidies on the same schedule.

If we are phasing out tax credits for clean energy—something I oppose—then why are we still committing to permanently support the fossil fuel industries with tax preferences they don’t need?” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii who sponsored that bill.  “It is based on the very simple idea that there should be a level playing field for fossil fuels and clean energy.”

The US Installed More Than Twice As Much Solar and Wind As Fossil Fuel Electricity So Far In 2015

Throughout the entire first half of 2015, solar and wind energy accounted for 2,518 megawatts of new electricity generating capacity brought online in the US — some 65 percent of all new capacity added so far this year.

Coal accounted for a mere 3 MW during that time period, while natural gas accounted for 1,173 MW (there was no new oil). That’s less than half the amount of solar and wind energy added January to June. Wind alone, at 1,969 MW, was more than all fossil fuels combined.

Recession, Not Fracking, Behind Drop in U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Scientists Conclude

It’s been a talking point for boosters of the shale gas rush for years: as fracking spread across the country and the supply glut drove prices down, utilities have been shuttering dirty coal plants and burning natural gas instead – meaning that America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped sharply. Fracking, the argument went, is actually good for the environment because it’s good for the climate.

Fossil Fuels from Federal Lands Create One Quarter of Total U.S. Carbon Emissions, New Report Concludes

A newly released analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute concludes that fossil fuels extracted from federal lands release carbon equal to a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The rate has stayed roughly consistent from 2003 to 2014.

When it comes to coal, the rate was even higher than average last year, the report concluded. “In 2014, two-fifths (40.2 percent) of U.S. coal  production was from leases on Federal Lands;  production on Indian Lands accounted for an additional 1.9 percent of U.S. coal production,” wrote Rick Heede, author of the analysis.

G20 Governments are Spending $88B Each Year to Explore for New Fossil Fuels. Imagine if Those Subsidies Went to Renewable Energy?

oil change international, subsidies, oil gas exploration

Rich G20 nations are spending about $88 billion (USD) each year to find new coal, oil and gas reserves even though most reserves can never be developed if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to a new report.

Generous government subsidies are actually propping up fossil fuel exploration which would otherwise be deemed uneconomic, states the report, “The fossil fuel bail-out: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration.”

Produced by the London-based Overseas Development Institute and the Washington-based Oil Change International the 73-page analysis also noted the costs of renewables is falling and the investment returns are better than fossil fuels.  

Every U.S. dollar in renewable energy subsidies attracts $2.5 in investment, whilst a dollar in fossil fuels subsidies only draws $1.3 of investment,” said the report released Tuesday, just days ahead of the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane, Australia.

The report also notes the G20 nations are creating a ‘triple-lose’ scenario by providing subsidies for fossil-fuel exploration.

Subsidy Spotlight: Paying the Price of Tar Sands Expansion

This is a guest post by Anna Simonton, on assignment with Oil Change International.

Carolyn Marsh was in her living room watching television on a Wednesday night in August when she heard a loud boom from somewhere outside. Having lived in the industrial town of Whiting, Indiana––just south of Chicago––for nearly three decades, she wasn’t terribly shaken. “There’s a lot of noise constantly,” she explains.

But when the news came on an hour later and reported an explosion at the nearby BP refinery, Marsh was incensed. It was the second serious incident since the recent completion of BP’s Whiting Refinery Modernization Project, which Marsh had fought to prevent.

In December 2013, after six years of community pushback, court battles, Environmental Protection Agency citations, and ongoing construction in spite of it all, BP’s $4.2 billion retrofitted facility came fully online.

Subsidizing Carbon Craziness: How Taxpayer Dollars for Capturing Carbon Greenwash Dirty Energy

Subsidy Spotlight

This is a guest post by Anna Simonton published with permission from Oil Change International 

The dirt roads of Penwell, Texas, criss cross overgrown lots littered with the detritus of a bygone oil boom that petered out in the 1940s. But as early as next summer, this ghost town 16 miles southwest of Odessa will become the site of a new coal power plant facility––funded in large part by taxpayers––that could play a major role in not only helping prolong the life of a dying coal industry, but in fueling an oil boom that’s just getting started in the Permian Basin region of West Texas.

The Texas Clean Energy Project (known as TCEP) is a proposed coal gasification plant that will generate electricity while attempting to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted in the process. That’s according to Summit Power Group, the Seattle-based company behind the project.

TCEP is one of four U.S. power plants in the planning stages that would use Carbon Capture and Sequestration technology, which comes with an unproven track record and an exorbitant price tag for taxpayers…not to mention the impacts of mining the coal in the first place. A fifth such plant is already under construction in Mississippi.

Not at Home on the Range: Subsidized Fracking Hits Colorado

This is a guest post by Paul Thacker, originally published by Oil Change International.

A general contractor in Colorado’s Grand Valley, Duke Cox says the first time he became aware that drilling for gas might be a problem was back in the early 2000s when he happened to attend a local public hearing on oil and gas development. A woman who came to testify began sobbing as she talked about the gas rigs that were making the air around her home impossible to breathe.

There were 17 rigs in the area, at that time,” Cox says. “And they were across the valley, so I wasn’t affected. But she was my neighbor.” The incident led Cox to join the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a group of activists concerned about drilling policies in his area on Colorado’s Western Slope. Within months he became the group’s President and public face. And as fracking for gas became more common across the state, he has found more and more of his time taken up with the cause.

We are ground zero for natural gas and fracking in this country,” he says.

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