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.”
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.