Category Archives: Economy

Subsidies: More on Fossil Fuel than on Education

A June 15, 2019 article in Forbes discusses a new International Monetary Fund study showing that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, an increase of a half-trillion dollars over 2015. The increase is despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, and despite renewable energy production becoming cheaper.

“The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.”

The article notes that “analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.”

Read the full article here.

Fracking Endgame

Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos is a new report from Food and Water Watch. It focuses on three key industries that are both benefiting from and helping to drive the fracking boom in the US: “the petrochemical and plastics industries that use natural gas liquids as a key feedstock for their manufacturing; gas exporters building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to ship gas overseas; and natural gas-fired power plants.” The report discusses the expanding and “symbiotically profitable business alliance with the fracking industry”:

  • Proliferation of plastics plants to capitalize on fracking
  • Pushing natural gas exports to raise domestic prices
  • Wave of new fracked gas-fired power plants

The report’s covering letter from Food and Water Watch’s Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, notes, “But perhaps most alarming was the mounting evidence of fracking’s impact on our climate. Natural gas, touted as a ‘bridge fuel’ to a clean energy future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.”

Gas Is Not A Bridge Fuel


A new report released by Oil Change International makes the case that gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’ to a safe climate. As the global climate crisis intensifies and gas production and consumption soars, it is clearer than ever that gas is not a climate solution. Leaking methane along the gas supply chain has been at the center of the debate around the climate impact of gas, but it’s far from the only issue at stake. There are five additional reasons why gas cannot form a bridge to a clean energy future, even if methane leakage is addressed.

Five key points from the report:

  • Gas Breaks the Carbon Budget
  • Coal-to-Gas Switching Doesn’t Cut It
  • Low-Cost Renewables Can Displace Coal and Gas
  • Gas Is Not Essential for Grid Reliability
  • New Gas Infrastructure Locks In Emissions

Read the announcement here.
Download the full report.
Download the 2-page summary.
Download key figures.

A recent article makes some of the same points:  5-30-19 Vox. More natural gas isn’t a “middle ground” — it’s a climate disaster.

And an article in Forbes emphasizes the increasingly high costs of fossil fuels compared to renewables:  5-28-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Costs Take Another Tumble, Making Fossil Fuels Look More Expensive Than Ever.

New Rules from FERC on Pipeline Profit Margins?

A DeSmog article on May 13, 2019, Energy Regulators May Reconsider Rules Critics Say Fueled America’s Oil and Gas Pipeline Glut, discusses a “little-noticed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announcement could have an outsized impact on the oil and gas pipeline industries — if the commission decides to snap shut loopholes that analysts say create financial incentives to build too many new pipelines in the U.S.” FERC’s announcement was followed by a March 21 notice of inquiry requesting “information and stakeholder views to help the Commission explore whether, and if so how, it should modify its policies concerning the determination of the return on equity (ROE) to be used in designing jurisdictional rates charged by public utilities. The Commission also seeks comment on whether any changes to its policies concerning public utility ROEs should be applied to interstate natural gas and oil pipelines.”

The high rate of return on equity (a guaranteed 14% for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline) allows for the construction of unnecessary pipeline projects, “which critics say will leave the United States criss-crossed by newly built fossil fuel infrastructure despite falling renewable energy prices and growing concern about the climate crisis. Critics add that because utilities can pass along costs to consumers in their monthly bills, FERC has effectively allowed them to use other people’s money to build pipes that may never be fully used.”

Now is your chance to comment to FERC on whether it should change the way it determines rate of return. Comments from the public on FERC’s new inquiry are due on June 26, 2019.

SCC Asked to Consider Higher Profits for Dominion


Two recent editorials, one in Charlottesville’s Daily Progress and one in Fredricksburg’s Free-Lance Star, urge the State Corporations Commission (SCC) to demand full and accurate information from Dominion before considering Dominion’s request for new projects and new profits – and potentially new rate increases from customers to pay for them. Dominion wants the SCC to raise its guaranteed return on equity [ROE] so it can attract investors. But SCC judges and staff noted that nearly all the projects could also generate higher bills for ratepayers. Plus Dominion has submitted varying plans at various times.

The Free-Lance Star put it this way: “If Dominion’s guaranteed return on equity is increased, that would mean more money for investors, but less money for refunds or grid investments that directly benefit the company’s 2.6 million captive customers—who incidentally just got stuck paying up to $5.7 billion to clean up decades’ worth of toxic coal ash. It’s up to the SCC, which will hold a public hearing on Sept. 10 in Richmond on the utility’s application, to decide whether that’s fair.”

Internet Giants Reject Dominion Plan

At Dominion Energy’s integrated resource plan hearings on May 8, 2019, cloud computing and internet giants delivered a letter demanding the company shift away from its plan to meet their energy needs with fracked gas through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and demanded the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions.

The Clicking Clean Virginia report issued by Greenpeace in February documented Dominion’s reliance on growing electricity demand from Virginia’s “Data Center Alley” to justify further fossil fuel investments, including the construction of the $7B Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  But some of the largest tech companies have stated unequivocally they do not want their demand to be met with more fossil fuel projects.  In response to the letter, Greenpeace Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook said, “These tech companies and their customers are demanding the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions. This pipeline has been rejected by the public, the courts, and now the very customers Dominion claimed it was for.”

Read the letter from the tech companies here.

Additional press coverage here.