credo quia absurdum est
has put out a study stating global fossil fuel subsidies amount to almost $600 billion a year. I guarantee that’s vastly, vastly under counted, but it’s an improvement over ten years ago when I was working in the energy world. At that time, there was one study from the late 90s, from the IMF if I remember correctly, that estimated fossil fuel subsidies around $200 billion. It was pretty much the only one. The renewable energy industry, who I was working with, was dead in the water. Their existence completely dependent on subsidies, and
has put out a study stating global fossil fuel subsidies amount to almost $600 billion a year. I guarantee that’s vastly, vastly under counted, but it’s an improvement over ten years ago when I was working in the energy world. At that time, there was one study from the late 90s, from the IMF if I remember correctly, that estimated fossil fuel subsidies around $200 billion. It was pretty much the only one. The renewable energy industry, who I was working with, was dead in the water. Their existence completely dependent on subsidies, andof course, it being the pinnacle of America’s Friedmanite, Randian, Greenspanian, free marketeer era, the renewable industry spent most of it’s time trying to convince they would eventually strive in the “free-market”. Most subsidies for fossil fuels are so baked-in the system to be unrecognizable as such, to broach the topic of the existence of fossil fuel subsidies in established energy circles was to be considered absurd, and that folks is real power.
Much of our economic thinking today is simply a rationalizing of the existing power of our mega-corporations, centralized government, and just as importantly, though far less understood, entrenched technologies. Larry Goodwyn made an excellent point in the The Populist Moment:
A far more permanent and thus far more desirable solution to the task of achieving domestic tranquillity is cultural — the creation of mass modes of thought that literally make the need for major additional social changes difficult for the mass of the population to imagine. When and if achieved, these conforming modes of thought and conduct constitute the new culture itself. The ultimate victory is nailed into place, therefore, only when the population has been persuaded to define all conceivable political activity within the limits of existing custom. Such a society can genuinely be described as “stable.” Thenceforth, protest will pose no ultimate threat because the protesters will necessarily conceive of their options as being so limited that even should they be successful, the resulting “reforms” will not alter significantly the inherited modes of power and privilege.
This of course is power’s greatest trick, and by no means necessarily illegitimate, but essential for any sort of continuous structure of power. However, putting aside the question of legitimacy, there comes a time when many of the “conforming modes of thought and conduct” constituting the culture of power are no longer viable. The contradictions between ruling cultural doctrine and reality become not simply unsustainable, but in fact detrimental. For our society, if present unaccounted subsidies in our society were actually accounted, it would be obviously apparent they are both unsustainable and detrimental.
Two of the easiest examples of unaccounted subsidies would be for fossil fuels and of course the financial sector. In the past two years, we have watched the complete failure of the banking and financial sectors, so called “free-markets”, and then seen the greatest continuous subsidized bailout in history, making the financial sector close to worthless in valuing anything. At present, we continue as if nothing failed. The fossil fuel subsidies are problematic on so many levels to be mind-numbing. I’ll choose one, China. The subsidizing of oil has created a Chinese economic structure that is simply not sustainable, just as the oil soaked United States economy. Culture can warp reality for awhile, but not endlessly.
Counter to the propaganda of our meeska-mouska-free marketeers, subsidies can be perfectly fine, you do however need to account for them. Subsidies can be ways in which political economy influences the society’s direction, meaning you need a healthy politics for this to function well. Today, the culture created by centralized corporate and government power is not only unaccountable, but failing spectacularly. We need to fix our markets and our government, starting with some honest accounting.