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An Introduction to Government Subsidies

Subsidies 101 | Subsidies in Detail | Studies and Resources | Plant-Level Subsidy Data

Although government subsidization of one group or another is a frequent topic of talk shows, blogs, and newspapers, the unfortunate truth is that most of the details on who is subsidized and how much they receive remains unknown.  A core goal of Earth Track is to help people learn more about how subsidies work, the many forms they can take, and why being able to see and value them is important both to fiscal solvency and to achieve a wide range of public policy goals.  Earth Track offers a range of resources for learning about subsidies:

I.  Subsidies 101

  • Subsidy primer: general definitions and terminology, important of non-cash subsidies, basic measurement issues.
  • Subsidy types: A chart outlining the major forms of government market interventions (many policies can act as subsidies or incremental taxes, depending on how they are structured).
  • Subsidies for the non-specialist: a made-up example to illustrate how subsidies can harm one group relative to others. 
  • Frequently-asked questions about subsidies.
  • Subsidy measurement:  An introduction to how different types of subsidies can be measured and they various approaches used around the world.

II.  Subsidy types in detail

Each specific type of subsidy has different attributes with regards to visibility and ease of attribution and quantification.  Politicians often prefer more complex, less visible transfer mechanisms, as these allow them to provide significant benefits to constituent groups with a lower risk of a backlash from taxpayers or competitors or the subsidized group.  These pages provide a more detailed overview of specific subsidy types.

III.  Subsidy studies and resources

IV.  Plant level subsidy data

Earth Track is developing resources to help people track subsidies to specific production facilities at the plant level.  We are looking for organizations with an interest in particular natural resource-related industries to test and improve this functionality before rolling it out to the public. 

The specific data sets we want to build out first include electric power plants (subsets related to specific prime movers such as coal or nuclear would be of interest); landfills and waste-to-energy facilities; oil refineries; and larger oil, gas, and coal extraction sites.

If your organization has information you are willing to share, or would like to team with Earth Track to build out particular data sets, please contact us at partnerships (at) earthtrack.net.  Of interest are existing data sets that could be integrated into this system (your organization would be properly credited), or organizations with a set of interns who could help expand existing data on particular plants to more effectively capture less visible, or more local, support.

Copyright 2012 Earth Track