Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Dwarf Support for Renewables

A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance details international government energy spending on biofuels and renewable energy.

  • July 29, 2010

Fossil fuels are the backbone of economies worldwide, so governments spend a lot to support them. A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says altogether governments spent between $43 anf $46 billion on renewable energy and biofuels last year, not including indirect support, such as subsidies to corn farmers that help ethanol production. Direct subsidies of fossil fuels came to $557 billion, the report says.

This disparity raises the question–if the report is right and fossil fuels require so much backing, can they compete with renewables without government support? After all, some renewables–such as sugarcane based biofuels and some wind farms–can already compete with fossil fuels. Without the huge government subsidies for fossil fuels, wouldn’t they be eclipsed by renewables?

The answer, for now, is no. So far renewables just can’t provide enough fuel and power to displace fossil fuels. The infrastructure to make and distribute them isn’t adequate, and many renewables have shortcomings that can make them difficult to work with–solar panels, for example, only generate electricity when the sun is out. If the fossil fuel subsidies disappear, gasoline and electricity prices will increase. That will help renewables compete, and increase in scale, but it will take years–likely decades–for them to reach levels high enough to replace all fossil fuels.

AI is here.
Own what happens next at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.