Earth Track Blog Post

The internet has been aflutter with the findings by New Energy Finance that conventional fuels receive way more in subsidies than does renewable energy.  The press coverage generally refers to this short summary. Today it was picked up in Andrew Revkin's influential dot Earth blog.

Turns out that New Energy Finance is really Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research consultancy owned by Bloomberg.  The actual study itself is nowhere to be seen (my e-mail to the Bloomberg reporter on this issue went unanswered).  It is hard to imagine such widespread coverage of a subsidy study -- released without the actual study -- had it been done by a random research institute rather than one affiliated with a media powerhouse.  While the full report may be available behind NEF's firewall, perhaps to their paying clients, I hope NEF CEO Michael Liebreich will do the right thing and post the report in a place we can easily access and evaluate it.  I'm guessing Andrew Revkin would be happy to post a link.

Some of the findings do seem interesting.  For example, the press release refers to total subsidy estimates for feed-in tariffs within the EU, something I've been looking for for awhile.  However, it is also clear that subsidy tallies need to be done systematically and comprehensively if they are to be valid (see my review of EIA's subsidy estimates for an illustration of how complicated this can be).  NEF does not seem to have reported metrics other than gross dollars (subsidies per unit energy delivered would have been important as well); and may not have picked up all of the relevant programs. There also seem to be valuation errors, as they pick up subsidies to petrol consumers in the developing world (via their inclusion of IEA's $557 billion subsidy estimate) while likely missing the subsidies to producers of biofuels granted via consumption mandates in both the US and Europe.

I've posted some additional comments on the NYT's site, as have Ron Steenblik and Lee Schipper.  We learn as well from commenter James in Northern Nevada that liability caps for nuclear accidents under the U.S. Price Anderson Act is a tax, not a subsidy.  Time requires I defer a take-down of that little nugget of fantasy to another day...