End the Handouts for Fossil Fuel

12.02.18
Curt Carnemark/World Bank
U.S. News /02 Dec 2018
12.02.18

End the Handouts for Fossil Fuel

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made the verdict quite clear; fifteen years is all the world has left to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Otherwise, global temperatures will rise more than 1.5° C above pre-industrial averages. The U.S. cannot reduce its carbon footprint by continuing to burn fossil fuels. The time has come for the U.S. to stop supporting fossil fuel and set itself on the path towards a carbon free energy grid.

Current U.S. energy policy still subsidizes the fossil fuel industry to the tune of over $26 billion a year with grants and tax credits. The Trump administration has gone further by slashing emissions standards and environmental regulations set forth by the Clean Power Plan. By shifting these subsidies towards renewable energy and establishing new, stricter emission standards, the U.S. can deter American utility providers from expanding fossil fuel generators, expand growth in U.S. renewable energy production and ultimately reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Stripping the fossil fuels industry of taxpayer dollars and reinstating tough regulations on emissions removes the incentive to expand coal and gas power generation. Eliminating tax credits will increase startup costs for fossil fuel generators and make renewable energy sources more competitive. Similarly, stricter emission standards will require utility providers to outfit existing fossil fuel generators with costly carbon capture technology, increasing their operation expenses and further pressuring the industry towards alternative energy sources.

Shifting fossil fuel subsidies towards renewable energy programs will reinvigorate the industry. The resources can be used to increase tax credits given to utility providers and heavy industry that choose to build or expand renewable energy farms. Alternatively, it could be given as research grants to help develop new and more efficient wind and solar units. Finally, by shifting public resources from fossil fuel to renewable energy, the administration would reassure the private sector of its commitment to expanding alternative energy sources. Private investment in renewables would increase.

Changing U.S. energy policy to benefit renewables will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon capture technology required by stronger emission standards will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Long-term, the shift in policy will move the industry towards cleaner, alternative fuel sources. This will ensure a future reduced carbon footprint and sustainable energy grid.

The cost effectiveness of renewable energy sources is frequently questioned. Although it is true that average costs of producing electricity from renewable sources has historically been higher than fossil fuels, this is no longer the case. Technological advancements in energy generation and efficiency has dramatically flipped the costs of renewable and fossil fuel energy. Onshore wind turbines can now generate electricity at far lower costs than conventional power sources. Solar power costs have steadily declined to the point where they are now comparable to advanced coal generators.

The fossil fuel industry has long overstayed its welcome. Though the U.S. and world are being asked to reduce emissions so dramatically, these changes are still possible for us to achieve. By devoting our resources towards renewable resources and reestablishing tough environmental rules, the U.S. will set itself on a course towards a cleaner, greener future.

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