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Reforming eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would save governments billions of dollars while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and freeing up monies for incentives on cleaner forms of energy, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Canada-based research institute.

Though long overdue, the IISD says this potentially transformative issue will reach the international level in June of 2012 at Rio+20 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

The challenge, according to the IISD, lies in the implementation of an international framework that phases out all fossil fuel subsidies. At Rio+20, the IISD will push for countries to pledge to support the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies that, "undermine sustainable development." The IISD claims subsidies are costly, lead to increased global and local pollution and are socially regressive.

Though the IISD will use Rio+20 to pitch its pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies, the research institute suggests that subsidizing even biofuels and renewables may not be in Mother Nature's best interest:

Subsidies to renewables-based electricity often come in the form of mandates or portfolio standards, green certificate trading systems, feed-in tariffs and premiums, or investment and production tax credits. ... Like all subsidies, these policies can lead to perverse outcomes (e.g., favouring some renewable energy technologies at the cost of driving away investment from others that are equally as promising) or can be captured by powerful industry groups. Reform should focus on ensuring that the subsidies are achieving their policy objectives cost-effectively.

Sounds like IISD will have its work cut out for itself at Rio+20.


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  • 13 Comments
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ah ha, Eric Loveday once again provides a sure fired response generator!. I can see the snorts of passion and bleating of wild eyed Utopian applause from the green 'mother earth' fan club! But, like everyone, the IISD deserves a fair hearing. So who is the grandly named International Institute for Sustainable Development ? And what gives them the right to pontificate? The IISD is one of a number of NGO's funded by the Government of Canada, via the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Environment Canada, and the Province of Manitoba. Province of Manitoba, other national governments, United Nations agencies, International Trade Union confederation, foundations, private donations etc. .(It's sister organisations are the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL). and the Institute of International Social Development) . All enjoy Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Impressed? Well you should be! But theres a bit of a catch if you are the USA. Then you are the enemy! For all the noble aims and environmental rhetoric, these 'NGO' s are the same old anti-US, green-left front organisations with their noses deep in the UN trough! (A trough paid for mostly by the USA) But, to be fair, what about the Policies these guys advocate? Well some are excellent. End oil subsidies! That should be popular! But what about other reports? Ok, how about the very expensive collaboration with the Balaton Group "International Think Tank". Who? I'm sure the average Canadian Taxpayer would be glad to know their tax money is funding the lifestyle of that distinguished old Soviet apologist, Dennis Meadows. Meadows and his late wife, Donella, co-authored the 1972 book " The Limits to Growth". This amazing book became the absolute Bible for the doomsday crowd! The leftist think tank, Club of Rome, created a sensation when it announced a 'scientific consensus' , (150 scientists) that 1977 was "The year the Stork passed the Plough"! From that year on, world famine would reduce even rich nations to starvation by 2010, (even in the USA). Disappointingly, 1978 was the year the world had a food glut! But, hey maybe this generation, of IISD advocates will have better luck.
        harlanx6
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Good info, Marco. Most of us are too lazy to do the research. Government subsidies serve a purpose and that is to drive business behavior in a certain direction to benefit society in general. That being said, I question the wisdom of government subsidies to the most successful of corporations, whos own best interest would drive their behavior in the same direction as the subsidies. I also question subsidies who never sunset. This is taxpayer money at a time when education is suffering because our elected officials don't have the self discipline to live within their revenue income. Subsidies should be temporary. It appears in this case the subsidies are tantamount to political payoffs.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Yea Marco, if these subsidies are so insignificant it would have been good political PR to just vote for the bill doing away with them. After all it would not have hurt the oil corps who think in trillions and the blow hard legislators could have crowed for eons about how they voted against the large and powerful oil industrial complex. Sounds like a win, win situation resulting in no change if the bill would have passed. Isn't that what government does, looks like it's doing something but in reality no net change. What happened?
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          I would have thought you are quite correct. But this is a really incompetent Congress. The problem was ill-conceived hastily drafting of the bill. In the end the proposed legislation was a minefield of untended consequences for all industry. Fortunately, just enough legislators woke up in time to defeat not the intent of the bill, but mostly to avoid more humiliation at being made to look incompetent. The Bill should have been sent to committee and been properly drafted and amended to achieve its purpose.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Cheap oil is what makes the economy run. This is going to be an uphill battle for the IISD but it is definitely worth a try.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well there's definitely a lot of alternatives if you think out of the oil box. They're even researching urine now! Is it going too far? check more on it here: http://ecomobility.tv/2011/08/22/urine-fuel-future/
      HVH20
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hopefully this will start to make a dent in oil subsidies. USA politicians are already paid off by the oil companies so its impossible to get a vote in to take away money from them. Honestly I was appalled when congress shut down the "end oil subsidies" bill, but not shocked to see the voting split was right down the line with who got oil company contributions to their campaign and who didn't. The system is broken, and until it changes this kind of crap will continue to thrive and bankrupt our country (even more).
        Marco Polo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @HVH20
        @HVH20. Here's the thing. I realise it's unpopular to dispel such an established myth, but I can only find very few, pretty insignificant, 'Oil Subsidies' remaining! When the members of Congress sent the bill to committee, it was discovered that such a bill would have been virtually unworkable. If this is right, and the Oil industry receives no significant 'subsidies', and it's tax relief provisions are more or less the same as any other industry, would this remove the cause of your angst? Of course, those who hatred of oil companies blinds them to all reason, or even facts, will persist in believing regardless. When ever these are challenged to produce evidence of "subsidies' , it always winds up with some rant mistaking tax arrangements with subsidies. Or attributing the cost of the US defences as a subsidy to Oil companies! If you doubt me, just show me the act of Congress which grants the Oil industry 'special' subsidies? True a few, very small, and anachronistic do remain, but basically the subsidies thing, is just a myth.! Attempting to deprive the American Oil Industry of the same business deductions as other industries, is counter-productive and discriminatory. Like you, I always imagined that the US government paid hefty subsidies to the OIL industry as an incentive to explore. But that ceased in 2005. The New York times published a convoluted and inaccurate article by David Kocieniewski, claiming that the US government is overly generous in allowing OIL companies tax deductions on depleted oil leases. Kocieniewski claims that Oil refineries, and petro-chemical plants are not manufacturing entities, so shouldn't qualify for tax concessions! It's that sort of fuzzy thinking that creates myths. Worse, are the words of the Congresswoman, proposing the bill you are referencing. Quote " , ["Tax subsidies received by the petroleum industry are easy to measure. The largest single cost element encompasses the military costs of protecting our oil supplies, which range from $26.6 billion to $170.7 billion. The hardest cost element to quantify, but also potentially the most important, is the environmental and health costs associated with pollution and global warming. Estimates of these costs range from $25.5 billion to $267 billion per year. "] All noble sentiments, but not oil subsidies by any description. Later in her speech she did identify some oil industry old incentives totalling $1.8-3.3 billion per year. That figure is probably accurate. The Industry estimate is about $2.1 billion. I know $2 to 3 billion is a lot to you, or me, but its not a lot, in an industry that thinks in trillions! The Oil and Natural Gas Industries are nearly 9% of US GDP! If the US, government wants to tax the oil industry, that's it's prerogative. But be honest, and tax it at the pump! Don't try to tax by stealth, to avoid the voter backlash.
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @ Chris M. The major oil companies are not the main recipients these old subsidies. Subsidies are usually to small oil leases and small companies. The anti-oil lobby has for so long promoted the erroneous belief that the Big Oil companies are 'subsidised' to the tune of $ 4-500 billion per year , they now believe it . This becomes a real problem when they try to abolish the "subsidies' and discover the s"subsidies' , don't really exist! As you can see from the Congresswoman's speech, she clearly doesn't understand the what legislation can achieve. Stirring speeches to get elected, is one thing, but legislation needs specific details. @ GoodCheer, The case of Tim DeChristopher is very localised to the US, and since I'm not a US citizen, I'm not that au fait with the intricases of his plight. However, the role of the environmentalist activist and the law is very complex. It's a very old debate. What standard can measure the benefit of civil disobedience, against the rule of law? The legal system is based on the Courts capacity to effect redress. But, that's not always possible, how does a court restore a 1000 year old tree, or a historic building once demolished? On the other hand, the rule of law must be observed or there would be anarchy. Tim De Christopher, methods would seem to have been calculated to cause the maximum disruption to the auction process, rather than stopping the development. As such his motives could be questioned, is he simply enjoying the celebrity status of martyrdom? Jay Michaelson, of ABG's companion Green Huff post, suggests he's a hero. Well, maybe that's right, but he elected to pursue this course of action, rather than seek a court injunction to prevent the sale of leases until the hearing. Tim De Christopher did not exhaust all the other legal channels that could have achieved redress. He choose to defy the law. His crime was not 'victimless', just despising your victim, doesn't mean they're not victims! Tim De Christopher, martyr or grandstanding egotist? Only he knows. ( but I think the appeal court will reduce the sentence). I suppose, in the end, how effective was his action? the fact that it acheived nothing but a great deal of publicity for Tim De Christopher as a hero, may be an indication.
          GoodCheer
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          I feel like you're dodging the question. It was not about the methods De Chritopher used, it was about what his case shows us about the methods used by oil companies and the regulators to lease out publically owned lands. If DeChristopher successfully bid up the price of land leases, yet was not the winning bidder, then by the most simple and direct rules of economics that proves that land leases are being priced un-competitively, despite the auction format. Beyond the [lack of] bidding between oil companies; the fact that it is illegal to bid on land leases if you don't plan to develop them for oil is categorically uneconomic.
          Chris M
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Well, it takes a lot less than a billion to bribe enough Congressmen to keep the subsidies going, so it's worth it to them. They're after every cent they can get. A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money!
          GoodCheer
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          What did you find when you looked into DeChristopher?
      Roy_H
      • 3 Years Ago
      Obama tried and got shot down by CONgress. This is hard to do. There is a MUCH better alternative with the LFTR. Liquid Flouride Thoroium Reactors are inherently safe, should be cheap to build and run, and have no long term radio-active waste. See: http://flibe-energy.com/ Unfortunately this superior system is having almost no support as all existing energy producers fight to maintain their status quo. Only China has a program to develop this technology. Maybe, after they have a refined product they will be kind enough to sell them to us, but I am sure this will not happen until they have filled the demand of their home market first.
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