In our Newsletter three weeks ago I mentioned that President Obama had proposed a $10/barrel tax on crude oil as a way to fund a $300 billion plan to make America’s transportation system more sustainable. As I said at the time, there is zero chance of this plan being approved by the US Congress, largely due to the power that the fossil fuel industry wields via political “donations” (i.e. bribes) and campaign contributions. For a long time I’ve been saying that there are two things which need to happen in order to drive a major shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources; 1) the price of fossil fuels needs to be higher and 2) the cost of renewable energy needs to be lower.
Technological innovation and the growing uptake of solar and wind power have helped to bring the cost of renewable energy down to where it can already compete with fossil fuels in certain situations. For example, it can be cheaper to build a new solar farm than a new, equivalently-sized, coal-fired power plant. However the cost of energy storage has not yet fallen enough for the solar farm to be capable of economically providing power when the sun isn’t shining. Which means we still need other forms of electricity generation to fill the gaps. Until someone can prove to me that we can safely deal with nuclear waste (or they develop a technology that doesn’t produce toxic waste) I think the nuclear option is completely out of the question. There are certainly a lot of very promising new technologies under development but for now fossil fuels are still providing most of the world’s energy.
This is largely because fossil fuels are too cheap. The price of fossil fuels does not reflect the true cost to society and the planet of burning them. If fossil fuel prices included the cost of mitigating the climate damage, health problems, pollution, water-contamination and general environmental havoc they cause, renewable energy would be a much more cost-competitive option.
Right now we are seeing extremely low fossil fuel prices due largely to over-supply and slowing demand. To make matters worse, governments the world over are pouring billions of tax-payer dollars into subsidising fossil fuels. According to this recent article from Energy Matters, GoFossilFree.org.au estimates that the Australian government will hand out $7.7 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry in the next financial year.
Are Our Politicians Corrupt?
According to GoFossilFree.org.au fossil fuel interests have donated $3.7 million dollars to Australia’s major political parties since the last election. This means that… “for every dollar donated to the major parties over the past 3 years, the fossil fuel industry will receive over $2000 in Government hand-outs from our politicians this year”.
GoFossilFree.org.au is applying pressure on all MP’s to sign a pledge calling for a ban on donations from fossil fuel industries and a ban on subsidies to fossil fuel companies. So far a few have signed and 27 have refused to sign, including Barnaby Joyce, Greg Hunt, Tony Abbott, Andrew Robb, and Mathias Cormann. As in America with President Obama’s plan to tax oil, this movement to end political bribes from, and tax-payer handouts to, fossil fuel companies may well be doomed to failure but at least it is helping to bring the issue to light. Hopefully it will expose and embarrass the pollies who are the most firmly in bed with polluting industries and help make Australians tax-payers aware of just how much of our own money is being used to ruin our children’s future.
It begs the question, who are the real “Fossil Fools”? The corrupt politicians who make a fortune selling influence to the highest bidder regardless of the the financial, social and environmental cost to the people who elected them? Or us bozos who keep working and voting and paying our taxes and letting them get away with it.