American Energy Subsidies And The Needs Of The Times

By: Gen Wright

President Obama has recently declared what could be considered as the cornerstone of his administration's legislative agenda for 2011. The president's pronouncements dovetail to what has already been stated in the past regarding an energy policy that seeks to spur the growth of the economy while dealing with serious issues concerning global warming. It may be the best time for the president to face these pressing concerns head on.

Amid the seemingly indifferent stand of the legislature on the call for a more aggressive move to avert global warming, there is that palpable consensus among the Republican majority that directly challenges the claim about the actual impact of global warming in our lives. Of course, we cannot deny the obvious fact that several house members are taking the cudgels for the fossil fuel industries. If the president is serious in paving a power regime that will focus more on sustainable sources of energy, then he should muster enough political will to tilt the balance in favor of green sources like solar, and he could start this by leveling the playing field with the introduction of more subsidies for solar.

While the elimination of all subsidies - for gas, coal, oil, ethanol, geothermal, water, solar and wind - may not be a viable option given the present circumstances, there has to be a definitive move or support in terms of bigger subsidies for solar and other green sources of energy. Indeed, we need to take a serious look at bigger subsidies for solar and other green energy sources if we are serious in giving them a competitive advantage.

Fossil fuels are heavily subsidized, and this is one of the dark spots of the 60-year history of US politics. This sordid aspect in US fiscal situation translates to over $20 billion allocated for energy subsidies annually. To make a clear case about this government spending, this amount can already support the college expenses of half a million Americans. Energy subsidies are based on the premise that the country needs to support the necessary structures that would help us overcome current energy challenges. Unfortunately, it does not address climate change and long term energy requirements of the country.

It is quite clear that energy subsidies heavily favor the fossil fuels industry. Industry reports indicate that around 70 percent of the amount supports coal, natural gas and oil, and a measly 15 percent of the energy subsidy goes to ethanol and another 10 percent is allocated for mega hydro-electric projects like the Bonneville Power and TVA. Renewable energy sources like wind, geothermal and solar have to settle for the crumbs that are left in the energy subsidy pie.

The urgent call of the modern times is for stakeholders and policymakers to address the issue concerning global warming. The time is rife for us to take the bull by the horn and provide a more equitable sharing of energy subsidies so that we can spur the growth of sources of renewable energies, particularly solar.

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