The Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International released a report yesterday: The fossil fuel bailout: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration. The report describes subsidies given to fossil fuel production by member countries of the Group of Twenty (G20). The scale of these subsidies is shocking: G20 governments devote $452 billion a year to the production of fossil fuels. The U.S. alone sets aside $20.5 billion annually to prop up domestic fossil fuel production. Taxpayers are on the hook for high-carbon resources (oil, gas, and coal) that are increasingly uneconomical to produce at home. In addition to direct subsidies, the dizzying variety of tax loopholes even include a tax deduction for oil spills, allowing companies to claim the cost of clean-up as a business expense!
A lose-lose situation has developed. Massive amounts of G20 finances are going to the production of fossil fuels which cannot be extracted without pushing our planet beyond the internationally agreed-upon goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C. To meet this commitment, at least three-quarters of existing oil, gas, and coal reserves needs to remain untouched and unburned. The U.S. can take a step to keep that pledge by leaving the Atlantic Ocean’s oil and gas deep beneath the ocean floor. The U.S. could further lead the global fight against climate change by shifting money away from fossil fuel subsidies and toward profitable and sustainable low-carbon alternatives like wind power.
Such a change in energy policy is necessary and increasingly wanted. For more than a year, East Coast communities have been building a wall of opposition to offshore drilling and seismic blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. The movement has traveled up the coast from Florida to New Jersey –the opposition even reaches inland to cities like Columbia, SC and Chapel Hill, NC. Some people are worried for ocean mammals –like right whales and dolphins—threatened by seismic blasts used in oil exploration. Others dislike the thought of their beaches marred by offshore drilling infrastructure. Many more remember BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and fear a similar spill in the Atlantic.
Let’s stop Atlantic offshore drilling before it starts. The Atlantic contains less than 4 percent of the nation’s total oil reserves and less than 3 percent of the nation’s gas reserves. All that carbon needs to stay in the ground—for the sake of ocean mammals, for the sake of a pristine Atlantic coastline, and for the sake of our planet. Once the money is invested in oil and gas production, we can’t go back. Once the rigs are stationed in the Atlantic and once the pipes line the ocean floor, we’re stuck with them for years to come. It’s time to end the subsidies, stop the drills, and face the true costs of our addiction to fossil fuels.