The discussion of this topic within the Boston Area Sustainability Group started with reflections on the effectiveness of incentives to accelerate adoption of sustainability-minded solutions (e.g., residential/community solar, electric cars) and the creation of green jobs. That path quickly led organizers to the topic of subsidies and the environment more generally – big and small, well- and poorly-designed, local and broad.
Energy resources vary widely in terms of their capital intensity, reliance on centralized networks, environmental impacts, and energy security profiles. Although the policies of greatest import to a particular energy option may differ, their aggregate impact is significant. Subsidies to conventional fuels can slow research into emerging technologies, thereby delaying their commercialization. Subsidies and exemptions to polluting fuels reduce the incentive to develop and deploy cleaner alternatives.