Renewable energy subsidies are just a fraction of the $10 million per minute the fossil industry receives in government support, Commissioner David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission affirmed last week in a presentation to the Energy Productivity Summer Study in Sydney, Australia.
“There is a myth around subsidies, but there is no such thing as an unsubsidized unit of energy,” Hochschild told RenewEconomy afterwards. “The fossil fuel industry hates to talk about that.”
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In the U.S., a graph from San Francisco-based DBL Investors shows cumulative fossil subsidies totalling US$447 billion from 1918 to 2000. One subsidy, the oil depletion allowance, was enacted in 1926 and is still in effect.
By comparison, the nuclear industry received $185.4 billion from 1947 to 1993, including taxpayer-funded insurance “without which there would be nuclear plants,” Hochschild said. Biofuels took in $32.3 billion between 1980 and 2009, renewables just under $6 billion from 1994 to 2009.
He noted that renewable subsidies in the U.S. are intermittent and subject to frequent revision, with tax credits shifting seven times in a decade—even though renewable subsidies actually deliver technology cost reductions, in contrast to government largesse for the fossil and nuclear industries. “How can you plan a wind turbine factory or project in those types of conditions?” he asked.
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