Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crumbs For Solar, Feasts For Big Oil

The BP oil disaster is almost, but not quite, no really we're almost there, plugged. But even if it's stopped tomorrow, thousands of species of life face extinction in the Gulf, and wetlands and shoreline ecosystems are perhaps doomed for generations to come. Now would perhaps be a good time to review US energy policy.
Well, it seems that the Obama Administration is pro-active as always, acting with the same determination that sent 35,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in a surge that will maybe, possibly, or maybe not, end in 2011. Just recently Obama announced a series of loan guarantees totalling $2 billion to two solar power companies to build manufacturing plants and a solar-steam electricity plant.
Two billion dollars for solar power might seem like a lot of money, until you consider that, according to a recent NY Times article, tax breaks to the oil industry average about $4 billion per year.  Yet another environmental news source claims that tax breaks and subsidies were even larger.
During the fiscal years of 2002-2008 the United States handed out subsidies to fossil fuel industries to a tune of 72 billion dollars, while renewable energy subsidies, during the same period, reached 29 billion dollars...
The funds provided to renewable energy sources plunges further when one takes into account that of the 29 billion dollars, 16.8 billion went to subsidizing corn-based ethanol, an energy source that numerous studies have shown is not carbon neutral and has been blamed in part for deforestation in the tropics and the global food crisis. The remaining 12.2 billion went to wind, solar, non-corn based biofuels and biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy production.
In other words, the US government spent six times the amount on direct subsidies to the oil industry than it spent on solar, wind, etc. Frankly, the authors ought to have removed all biofuels and biomass, which are of dubious value in reducing carbon concentration in the atmosphere. But more than that, this doesn't take into account government spending on roads, subsidies to the auto industry that aren't tied to producing carbon neutral vehicles, subsidies for suburban real estate developments that encourage a high carbon economy, etc. Never mind the $700 billion that is spent on the world's greatest polluter - the US military machine.
Put next to this, Obama's $2 billion loan to two companies looks like what it is, pocket change in return for a photo-op while doing nothing to prevent a future filled with more deepwater oil disasters as companies are forced further out to sea to tap into undepleted petroleum reserves.
A good place to start sending a message if you're an American is here. Here in Canada we have the slow motion BP spill known as the Alberta Tar Sands. You can find more information here and here.
Meanwhile, here's a video of some of the destruction wrought by BP:

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