Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The True Costs of our Continued Oil Addiction

When we speak of our addiction to oil, the costs are usually measured in terms of our engagement in the Middle East and climate change. The continuing problems in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Israel are the most acute examples of the ongoing costs of our fealty to OPEC while, just today, another study emerged showing that the tropical atmosphere is warming 80 percent faster than the Earth’s surface (The Guardian), providing further fodder for the oil company sponsored climate change deniers to try to manipulate into a liberal conspiracy. But a more startling cost has just emerged, thanks to the one of the key engines of neoliberal ideology, the International Monetary Fund.

What the IMF found is that fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies to the tune of $5.3 trillion a year (or almost $10 million a day). In composite, the total is greater than the total health spending of all governments in the world. The vast sum is largely predicated on polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas, including health related problem cause by air pollution and the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change. It is a startling number that puts a more acute focus on the real costs of environmental degradation and our unwillingness to curb carbon emissions.

It also points to the real costs of not pursuing renewable energy sources. If governments took a fraction of that cost and used it to invest in green companies, we could start to address global warming, weaken the political impact of the Middle East and actually live in a world that is less polluted and prone to ecological disaster. On top of that, those diverted government funds could then be used to address pressing issues like health, hunger, poverty and the diminishing quality of life for far too many global citizens. Of course that would mean the diminishing of profits for big oil and gas companies, who are not surprisingly at the UN Climate Change talks this week, arguing their case to continue destroying the planet one drilling site, factory and car at a time (RTCC).

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