UK newspapers have again picked-up on the issue of government subsidies to wind power saying that one Cabinet Office minister – Oliver Letwin – backs an end to subsidies to onshore wind farms by 2020. But the Guardian reported that Mr. Letwin’s comments have “irritated” Ed Davey, the UK climate change secretary, who last week set out his backing for wind energy.
It makes me wonder – how do politicians and media can get away with talking about removing subisidies from renewables without even mentioning the existence – let alone withdrawal – of much larger subsidies for much more established energy technologies? It is hard to understand.
In a recent interview, the chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol pointed out that “fossil fuel subsidies are a hand brake as we drive along the road to a sustainable energy future. Removing them would take us half way to a trajectory that would hold us to 2C.”
Mr. Birol is of course referring to the fuel subsidies that governments around the world give towards lowering the price of fossil fuels, such as the $409bn spent by 37 governments in 2010. He is also referring to the fact that these subsidies encourage the use of polluting substances, and that eliminating the subsidies would go a long way towards achieving the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees.
“Fossil fuels got six times more aid than clean energy, IEA says” – Bloomberg
“World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns” – Guardian
“IEA warns on global energy policies” – Financial Times
These are just three of the headlines on the International Energy Agency’s 2011 World Energy Outlook published on Wednesday and widely reported by the world’s media.