Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Imagine a bunch of people who are kidnapped and tortured by being put in a hot room, and their tormentors keep turning up the thermostat. So the prisoners stage a revolt and grab control of the thermostat. But they turn it up on themselves, making the room even hotter, and black out from heat stroke.
It isn’t a very satisfying thriller because the prisoners act in a bewildering way, joining in to torture themselves.
It is, however, the thriller we are living, however bizarre the characters’ actions.
The International Monetary Fund reports that the nations of the globe indirectly subsidized fossil fuels, the sources of dangerous greenhouse gases causing global heating, to the tune of $7 trillion in 2022. In other words, we’re acting like we are brain dead. So report Simon Black, Ian Parry, Nate Vernon at the IMF.
They note that scientists are reporting that this July was the hottest on record. The implication is that we might not want to spend quite so much money propping up coal, fossil gas and petroleum.
The IMF also points out that $7 trillion is 7.1 percent of the world’s gross national product and is nearly twice as much as governments spend on education, and is two-thirds of all spending on health care. But education and health care are good things, whereas fossil fuels are evil and destructive.
In 2020, the indirect subsidy figure was only $5 trillion. So in just two years the countries of the world have actually increased fossil fuel subsidies by $2 trillion. Brain dead.
Tim Wallace at the Telegraph points out that some $5.7 trillion a year worth of indirect subsidies derive from governments giving tax breaks to fossil fuels. Then direct subsidies on top of that come to $1.3 trillion. Direct subsidies have doubled over two years.
Wallace says that some of the increase in subsidies, both direct and indirect, is owing to the spike in energy prices attendant on the Ukraine War and the international embargo on Russia. Governments have sometimes subsidized fossil gas purchases for consumers because of these painfully high prices and the danger of families freezing in the winter.
Depending on how you figure the damage fossil fuels do in provoking extreme weather events, they cost us between $5 trillion and $10 trillion a year. And we’re putting in similar amounts to make sure we go on causing all that destruction.
The particulate matter from burning coal and gasoline gets into our lungs and can cause lung cancer and heart attacks, not to mention that these fuels are boiling the planet. So we should not only not be subsidizing them, we should be putting extra taxes on them to discourage their use. Such steps could prevent 1.6 million premature deaths a year and save governments $4.4 trillion annually. And those figures don’t even take account of the massive destruction wrought by climate change, which is caused by burning fossil fuels.
We should be replacing fossil fuels with solar, wind and battery, like yesterday.