externalities

Subsidy Briefs, June 1, 2015

Another roundup of interesting tidbits from the world of government subsidies.

1)  Nuclear:  A new age of nuclear energy is about to dawn?  Optimism is a good thing, and Michael Brush of the Fiscal Times certainly exudes it.  But optimism probably shouldn't lead you to invest your 401(k) in a bunch of nuclear utility stocks. 

Energy subsidies and energy poverty

A lack of access to modern energy services continues to be a major contributing factor to poverty and human suffering throughout the world.  The International Energy Agency estimates 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity, most of whom are located in rural areas.  Roughly 2.6 billion people have no access to clean cooking fuels; too often the search for biomass cooking fuels puts the poor, particularly women, at great safety risk as well.

The Economist on Scrapping Subsidies: Some Thoughts

More than most mainstream publications, The Economist has regularly covered energy subsidies and consistently called for their elimination.  Too many newspapers pick and choose which subsidies they care about.  The Wall Street Journal, for example, rails on subsidies to renewables -- particularly wind and corn ethanol.  But government largesse to fossil fuels and nuclear power always seems to be illusory figments of greenie imaginations.  Midwest publications too often turn a blind eye on subsidies to ethanol or the corn (and water) that makes it. 

Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Building a Framework to Support Global Reform

Keynote presentation at the Expert Workshop on Subsidies to Fossil Fuels and Climate Mitigation Policies in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), held at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC on January 14, 2014.  Slides review recent global estimates of fossil fuel subsidies, highlighting both the tallies and the reasons the estimates differ widely from one another. 

Energy Subsidy Reform: Lessons and Implications

Energy subsidies have wide-ranging economic consequences. While aimed at protecting consumers, subsidies aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd-out priority public spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector. Subsidies also distort resource allocation by encouraging excessive energy consumption, artificially promoting capital-intensive industries, reducing incentives for investment in renewable energy, and accelerating the depletion of natural resources. Most subsidy benefits are captured by higher-income households, reinforcing inequality.

Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal

Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and are thus often considered “externalities.”We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.Many of these so-called externalities are, moreover, cumulative.

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