Why alternative energy has a hard time: fossil fuels get 250 subsidies

If you think ending the ethanol subsidy puts all fuel sources on an equal footing, think again. While there has been a great deal of vitriol directed toward subsidies for alternative energy and plug-in vehicles, very little has been heard about the ways in which fossil fuels are given a huge advantage – and there are many. In fact, compared to the help fossil fuels are given, tax breaks for alternative energy are decidedly modest.

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that fossil fuels are awarded at least 250 different subsidies. From tax breaks on exploration to development credits to tax abatements on infrastructure, the ticket for fossil fuel subsidies runs much, much higher than the oft-scrutinized funds directed at alternatives. The oil industry alone receives tens of billions each year in tax subsidies, and that's only a fraction of the total break they are given. The subsidies for fossil fuels stretch back more than a century, and are pervasive in programs at federal, state, and local levels.

More than just ethanol subsidies expired with the beginning of 2012. The whole program of grants to clean energy programs was allowed to end. Meanwhile, subsidies that help fossil fuels are increasing annually, with almost no comment.

The many different kinds of subsidies provided to fossil fuels, the different ways they are inserted into various federal and state codes, and the vast amount of lobbying carried out by these industries makes it very difficult for alternatives to get a fair shake. By ending funds for clean energy, fossil fuel supporters have kept the field as uneven as possible, protecting their own interests at a cost to both government and consumers.
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