Dec 4, 2011

Does America Spend Too Much on Clean Energy?

A recent Time magazine feature stated, "Subsidies for clean energy still lag far behind the public money that goes toward oil, coal, and natural gas projects." According to energy star Joe Romm clean energy has "by far the highest documented return on investment (ROI) of any federal program." For reference sake, here's a graph showing the timeline of federal energy incentive spending 1961 to 2010:

At a global level, fossil fuels received $409 Billion in subsidies in 2010, renewables $66B. From this perspective fossil fuels give better return on investment, they cover about 80% of global energy needs. But oil and coal have been around for more than 100 years, aren't they the very defintion of "mature industries" -- ? Shouldn't subsidies be used to support emerging technologies? The ones we want? Not to favor market giants?

This US Energy Information Administration study clearly shows that $172B was spent on clean energy research 1970 to 2009. By contrast, that number is 0.5% the roughly $30 Trillion spent on America's transportation and electricity infrastructure investments during the same period, which could certainly be viewed as yet another form of incentivization.

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