Commentary

The Right’s gigantic lie about clean energy

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

Koch brother-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity have launched an all out assault in recent days against modest, common sense North Carolina public policies that encourage the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. They’ve tried just about every prevaricating message they can think of, but the one they seem to have settled on of late is the absurd claim that we are somehow unfairly disadvantaging fossil fuels and driving up the costs to consumers by promoting green energy.

This is simply and plainly false.

The truth is that Americans already subsidize the fossil fuel monster to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year. This is from the May 20 edition of The Weekly Briefing:

“As a new and powerful report from the International Monetary Fund demonstrates convincingly, the true cost of fossil fuels to society is vastly higher when one figures in the massive public subsidies that are expended in the form of environmental damage, health impacts and the public costs of dealing with both.

As CNBC reported Monday:

‘Governments around the world charge prices for energy that do not account for its harmful environmental, health and other side effects, amounting to a $5.3 trillion ‘post-tax’ subsidy this year, the International Monetary Fund said in a report on Monday.

The IMF said China in particular failed to charge its more than 1 billion consumers for the pollution that comes from heavy use of fossil fuels, adding up to a $2.3 trillion subsidy this year.

The United States was the second-biggest offender, with an estimated $699 billion subsidy, followed by Russia, the European Union, India and Japan.’

You got that? The nations of the world are effectively spending around 6.5% of their gross domestic product dealing with the effects of fossil fuel pollution, but because most fail to include it in the upfront price charged for fossil fuels, we labor under a wildly false impression of their true cost. If the Americans built an extra $699 billion per year into the upfront price of fossil fuels instead of just paying it later, you can rest assured that the ‘free market’ would produce some different results. In comparison, the subsidies provided to the renewable energy industry – an industry with a comparatively tiny environmental impact – are laughably insignificant.”

Indeed, given that North Carolina makes up about 3.3% of the U.S  population, this means that our share of this outrageous subsidy to the fossil fuel industry is currently hovering around $23 billion per year — more than the entire state General Fund budget! Anything that hastens the transition to clean energy will save us billions.

Pardon us therefore if we don’t get too hot and bothered about paying a few pennies extra each month to help free our state from this pernicious, heroin-like addiction that is robbing our children of their birthright.

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