We normally talk about clean energy in terms of subsidizing it directly or else charging dirty energy sources so as to remove the unpriced negative externalities. But if you watch congress at all, you’ll notice that current policy actually subsidizes dirty energy in a baffling way. And we’re not alone. Dave Roberts flags a new analysis from the International Energy Agency that pegs global dirty energy subsidies at $550 billion a year:
The Financial Times got a peak at the draft and covers it today, soliciting this absolutely fabulous quote from chief IEA economist Faith Birol: “I see fossil fuel subsidies as the appendicitis of the global energy system, which needs to be removed for a healthy, sustainable development future.” I’m stealing that one.
Not only would removing these subsidies move us closer to the “free market” conservatives are fond of pretending we already have, it would immediately reduce energy use and carbon pollution.
The last point really is telling and important here. I can’t think of a single significant “free market” institution in America that spends nearly as much time and energy on this set of market distortions than they do bashing enviornmentalist proposals. Operationally, conservatism in the United States just isn’t about small government or free markets.